About 14 months ago, former Bikita West legislator Munyaradzi Kereke was probably confident that he would not have to serve his entire 10-year jail sentence.
Kereke was sentenced 14 years imprisonment for raping his 11-year-old niece at gunpoint seven years ago.
Four years were set aside on condition he does not commit a similar offence within the same period.
Initially, the former legislator seemed hopeful that his urgent appeal against both conviction and sentence for raping the under-age girl would bear fruit.
It might not be way off the mark to even suggest that the former economic advisor to former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr Gideon Gono appeared to think that his societal status would work in his favour.
He says during his first days in prison, he saw freedom at the prison gates. But days turned into weeks, months and then a year. Still the freedom remains elusive and his mindset has changed.
While lawyers are still contesting the conviction and sentence, Kereke says he has found a new home in prison.
Like anyone else behind the walls, freedom is what he prays for and yet prison is now his reality.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail in an impromptu interview at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison last week, Kereke said he has adjusted to his new home.
He said he now holds a totally different view to life.
Spotting a long beard, clean shaven head and off-white prison garb, Kereke said: “I no longer ask why I am here, but I am taking this opportunity to learn new things daily. I am strong because my conscience is free. Jeri hombe riri mupfungwa (The greatest suffering is in one’s mind).
“I used to be a selfish person, but with what I am experiencing in here, my perception towards people has changed.
“We treat each other as brothers and that is what we are supposed to do even when we are free out there.”
Kereke admits prison life is not a bed of roses.
“Water is very limited and if you do not own a bucket it is difficult for you to get a bath. We share what we have as a family. A cell that should accommodate 15 people may at times carry double that number. There is also the issue of sickness among inmates. But you have to face it, this is a prison and the conditions are meant to be rehabilitative.”
Asked why he continues to maintain a long beard in a place where most people prefer a shave owing to hygiene considerations, Kereke chuckled and said: “There is freedom of worship here, we practise our faith, that is why I maintain my hairstyle and beard.”
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