Ngarivhume Reflects On Time In Remand Prison

After 45 days behind bars opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader, Jacob Ngarivhume was finally released by the Zimbabwean authorities.

Until his arrest on 20 July, Ngarivhume was little known in Zimbabwean political circles, although he had a short stint in main MDC before starting his own movement.

His claim to fame came late May when he became a social media hit after proposing to lead the 31 July anti-corruption demonstration against government.

So influential was his voice that the government responded with an iron fist as security in and around the central business districts of Harare and Bulawayo was tightened in the lead up to the day.

Five days before the demonstration, on a Monday morning, Ngarivhume recalls being approached by a hoard of plain-clothed security officers and it was at that time that he thought he was being abducted.

“The arrest was very violent in my own assessment and perspective. That morning I had to go to the church and as I was getting into the church, I saw a car full of police details, parked outside. But there was nothing that could tell me that they were police details.

“Four of them had AK47 guns and they drew them out. When I got close to them, they started shouting at me, telling me that they were looking for me. They drew guns, other men came out of the vehicle. It was really threatening and violent. The people who were watching actually started running for cover,” he told 263Chat.

Jacob Ngarivhume during a protest in Harare, 2018 (Lovejoy Mutongwiza/263Chat)

“I thought it was an abduction since we are going through a lot of abductions in this country. I was only a little bit relieved when I got to the Law and Order, at Harare Central,” he added.

For Ngarivhume, this was the beginning of a one and half month ordeal, which would shake the world.

While Ngarivhume was being arrested, the police were also descending on investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who used his Twitter account to expose corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 response funds.

Ngarivhume and Chin’ono were to meet at Harare Central Police Station and like Siamese twins, they would form a partnership that became a symbol of resilience in Zimbabwe.

“After about an hour of me being there, my colleague and compatriot, Hopewell Chin’ono also arrived having been arrested at his house. This is when I knew it was a formal arrest,” Ngarivhume said.

As has become the norm with many politically motivated arrests, the right to see a lawyer is often deprived and this was also the case with Ngarivhume and Chin’ono.

“The lawyers came through after about two hours of my arrest, that’s when I made communications with the rest of the world that I had been arrested,” he said.

Ngarivhume would then spend two days and two nights in remand at Harare Central police station, after being denied bail at the Harare Magistrate’s Court.

Jacob Ngarivhume reporting at Waterfalls Police Station as part of his bail conditions (263Chat)

He was then transferred to Harare Remand prison, where he would be locked up for three weeks, with two bail attempts being denied. He was later moved to Chikurubi Maximum Prison, where he spent more than a week in police custody.

“Such was our walk. Our experiences were horrible, we went through some of the worst conditions that any human can go through. As a prisoner, you literally have no rights. We were classified, Hopewell and I, as D criminals, the most dangerous criminals.

“At remand prison, we shared cells with those that committed the most dangerous crimes. At Chikurubi Maximum (Prison), we were in cells with those who were convicted for murder, serving life sentences and for you to go through that psychologically, it really meant a lot, to appreciate the fact that this is the situation you are in and these are the people you are living with,” Ngarivhume retorted.

The Courts and Judiciary System.

Ngarivhume and Chin’ono became subjects of discussions on social media and on international media. The two were brought before the courts several times to seek bail, but it was becoming elusive.

For Ngarivhume, it seemed like he would spend the rest of his days behind bars as the expected ray of hope, seemed to fade away with each court appearance.

“I still have a court before the court so I won’t say much but let me say to you, the intention of the state was to make sure that we had no bail, we had no food, and we had no medical attention. For us, everything we got, we had to go through the courts.

“For us to access food from home, special diets for that matter, we had to get a court order. For our medical practitioners to visit us in jail, and get access to our lawyers, we had to go to the courts. It was basically a matter of us resorting to going to the courts for anything.

“These are the same courts as well, which were refusing us bail…” he said.

The March Has Not Ended

For Ngarivhume, the battle is still on. He says until corruption is weeded out of the country, then he will not rest.

While in prison, the Catholic Bishops took the government to task to address pressing national issues, a move Ngarivhume says signifies the national resolve for everyone to call for the government to do the right thing

“I like the way the Catholic Bishops have put it. The march is not yet over until the rightful demands that the people of Zimbabwe were petitioning are heard and met. It’s very important that we were driven by our commitment to see a corrupt-free society.

“If those demands are not addressed, it is very important and clear for us that we still need to do the things we are supposed to do.

The opposition leader said it is now upon the people to see that their demands are met and heard. He also said there is a need for a strong civil right movement that will keep the pressure on the government to act decisively on corruption.

Contrary to his alleged crimes, Ngarivhume denies calling for violence on the streets. He said his resolve was to see a peaceful demonstration, which is in accordance with the dictate of the constitution.

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and 31 July Demo convener Jacob Ngarivhume after their release from remand prison (Munashe Chokodza/263Chat)

“The people of Zimbabwe have every right to see to it that they demonstrate peacefully so that they are heard,’ he urged.

Ngarivhume added that he has since reached out to abductees like Tawanda Muchehiwa, who was brutalized by unknown assailants in the lead up to the demonstration.

He also reached out to Godfrey Kurauone, the MDC Alliance Youth leader, who was arrested in connection with the demonstration.

In addition, Ngarivhume said he was overwhelmed by the response shown to the cause.

“To all those who took heed to our call for an anti-corruption demonstration, we say thank you. Do not be discouraged. The journey to Rome begins with a single step and we need to continue on that path,” he said.

In the meantime, Ngarivhume says he is happy to be back home with his family but he will soon find himself back in court to begin the trial.

Maybe at the end of it all, he will be a free man, but for now, he walks with a peep onto his shoulders.

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