Adjusting to life after prison not a bed of roses
IN the Bible, Saul was a murderer who also persecuted and threatened Christians and the mere mention of his name instilled fear in everyone. His life later changed when he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit.
BY HAZVINEI MWANAKA
However, a problem arose later when the community could not accept him back as a reformed person. No one wanted to be associated with a murderer.
According to the book of Acts 9 vs 20: “All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on His name’?”
Just like Saul, a 54-year-old Domboshava man, Goliath Jocho, has suffered the same rejection following his release from jail after serving a 20-year sentence for murder for which he was convicted in 1998.
“I had a fight with a certain man whose name I can’t remember and he died during the fight. I was arrested on July 11 1996,” narrated Goliath.
“The sentence was on December 10 1998 and I was given 20 years of which two years were suspended. Six more years were later removed because I had behaved well, so in the end I served 12 years.”
Jocho said he started his sentence at Chikurubi Maximum Prison and was later transferred to Harare Central Prison in 2007, where he was kept until his release on December 9 2010.
He was very happy about being released, but the community back home did not want to associate with a murderer. Even relatives and friends rejected him, he said.
Villagers used to live in fear of him before his incarceration. It was not wild animals that women who went to the bushes to fetch for firewood were afraid of; it was Jocho. He had become known as a beast in the community, some of the villagers told The Standard last week.
Some villagers however said they had since accepted him back as one of their own.
One of the villagers, Bridget Matope said they used to fear him but it was now all water under the bridge.
“When we heard that Goliath was back, we lived in fear again, but as time went on, we got used to him. He is a friendly person,” said Matope. “I still remember the day I went to gather wild brown fruits [mazhanje] when I met him. The only thing that came to my mind was to get my bucket and run away, only to hear him saying ‘Mother, don’t worry, I also came to pick the fruits just as you are doing’. This is when I realised that he was a changed person.”
Another villager, Mbuya Cecilia Nyakudya, who lives near Jocho’s homestead, said they have accepted Jocho despite his criminal record.
“When he was brought here, we had a gathering. I still remember the words he said, that he had come back, begging us to not be afraid of him, that he was as harmless as a toothless snake,” said Nyakudya. “We stay together peacefully. He is now a changed person and moreover, he is now married.”
Village head for Mhizha, Forbes Kunaka also shared the same sentiments. “At first we used to live in fear but honestly speaking, he is an understanding person. He is now staying with others well in the village and moreover, he now has a wife,” he said.
Jocho said he suffered a lot while in prison and urged people to desist from committing crimes.
“Soon after jail, I came back to the village. I still remember we came with a crew from ZBC and some prison officers. I only had a few belongings; just a few clothes and food and US$10 which one police officer gave me and I had to start from there,” he said.
“To be honest, life in jail is unbearable. I still remember 2008 to 2009 when the economic situation was bad; I survived by God’s mercy. I just want to urge others that have also committed crimes that it doesn’t make sense to continue doing the same thing because at the end of the day, you will rot in jail.”
The Zimbabwe Association of Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (Zacro), said an average of 20 prisoners were dying daily in 2009 due to malnutrition-related ailments.
Zacro and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) moved in 2009 to provide additional food and water for prisoners.
Last year, the government revealed that at least 100 inmates died owing to poor nutrition out of the country’s 17 000 prisoners.
Jocho is now married to Erika Nyikadzino, and ekes out a living from repairing shoes, a trade he learnt while doing time in prison.
“My life here is chaotic. Yes, I know how to repair and make shoes but the bottom line is that I don’t have capital. The little money that I get from repairing shoes is not enough for my family,’ he said. “We are good farmers, we know how to grow tobacco but the challenge again is capital. We hope one day a Good Samaritan will come and help us out of this mess.”
Jocho said he sometimes got help from a priest at Makumbi Mission in Domboshava. “I would like to thank Father Mulla for the continual support that he is giving me in my life and other members of the community who are giving me a hand,” he said.
Pointing to the only two little huts that he shares with his wife’s eight children, Jocho said the living conditions, at his homestead were “not so comfortable”.
“I only have two huts that I share with my family, and as you can see, the infrastructure is in bad shape. My other challenge is lack of proper land so that I can start market gardening,” said the 54-year-old man.
Seated on the edge of a rock outside his hut, his face looking pale from pain, Jocho said he had been diagnosed with hernia.
“I have been diagnosed with hernia, and I am having challenges walking. The doctors said I need an operation and this costs around US$400 but I don’t have the money,” he said.
“The priest at the mission also helps me with money for medication, but as for now, the situation has worsened and I need urgent help to have the operation,” he said.
“A beggar is not a chooser, I appreciate the support that I am getting and I believe more people are also going to come to my rescue,” he said.
As a parting shot, Jocho said: “crime does not pay.”