1 February 2014

Zimbabwe: MDC-T Activist Defiant After Two Year Prison Stint

MDC-T national executive committee member Last Maengehama has declared his two-year imprisonment on cop murder charges will not force him to abandon politics.

An indifferent Maengehama, who was, until his eventual release Wednesday, a Class "D" inmate at Chikurubi maximum prison, said his harsh prison life had in fact hardened him.

He is among the remaining seven party activists who still have to answer to allegations of killing police Inspector Petros Mutedza outside a Glen View bottle store May 2011.

"Politics is my calling. It is part of me; abandoning politics is just like abandoning my own self. No amount of incarceration, threats, harassment can take me away from politics," Maengehama said in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com Thursday.

Even while in prison Maengehama fought to remain in politics.

"I actually tried to contest the MDC-T primaries in Glen View south. I sent my campaign managers to go and submit my CV but I was disadvantaged by my party's confirmation system which l found to be too lenient to sitting MPs," he said.

The Harare businessman says he was dismayed at the eventual MDC-T loss in the July 31 2013 vote but says he had an intuition his party was headed for defeat after President Robert Mugabe had resolutely ignored opposition demands for reforms.

Maengehama related the horrors of prison life.

"Prison life was so difficult. You can never get used to it. But we learnt to accept our fate knowing we could do nothing about it," says the 38-year-old politician.

"It was a case of accepting because if you allowed yourself to think deeply about it, you ran the risk of a heart attack.

"Food was not enough. There was no proper clothing. In our case in Chikurubi, we encountered water shortages and we were overcrowded in one cell."

The MDC-T politician said he was among 36 inmates who were crammed in a cell originally created for 15 prisoners adding they spent nearly 17 hours a day locked in the cell.

As if that was not bad enough, Maengehama says he would often encounter hostile prison wardens who forbad him from taking the more descent food from home.

He was among the last three out of the previously accused 29 MDC-T activists to test freedom. But he still has to stand trial 24 February in a case the MDC-T insists is purely political.

He added: "For us political prisoners, physical harassment was rare but they could find other means of punishment for us.

"For example, we were always in leg irons sometimes even when we were still within the prison yard."

Maengehama admits he least expected the court order for his release having failed to secure his freedom a nearly a dozen times.

"I thank God for the gift of health and for the gift of life since the time l was incarcerated," says the MDC activist, who looked rather portly for an ex-inmate.

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