Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Reporter
LOCKED and under rehabilitation are more than 200 inmates at the old building structures of Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) in the heart of Gwanda town.
Their daily routine is to wake up in the morning with the cells being opened at 8am before they go back inside at 3.30pm.
Each inmate has a role to play in the institution’s daily errands from cleaning the compound, running the car wash business, taking part in the farming projects and conducting duties for Government departments.
In between, the ZPCS does its part to rehabilitate and correct the offenders’ mindset so that they come out worthy to restart their lives. Such is the life of prisoners as they await their day to freedom.
When inside prison, many inmates face depression, lose weight or even commit suicide because of being away from their loved ones. Being locked up in a room with strangers is not what any human being would wish for.
No celebration of one’s birthday, no eating the “seven colour” meals, be it on a church day or wedding as the other side of life will have been cut off.
But, the gloom on the inmates’ faces was washed away one Sunday afternoon, just a few days after the New Year.
This day is one that Gwanda prison inmates will forever cherish and never forget as renowned businesswoman Rugare Neuso, known as Miss Rue gave them a belated Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s gift.
Accompanied by her brother she made history and will forever be penned in the town as someone who remembers a class of society often looked upon with disdain.
A first of its kind in the area, the woman celebrated her 30th birthday in a colourful style that put smiles on the faces of the women and men behind bars.
The celebrations were not just about a five-course meal and drinks as they were coupled with performances that rejuvenated dances and soothed the hearts of the inmates and attendees.
The inmates had a chance to see the talent endowed in the mining town that is slowly changing the face of the rainbow province’s capital music status. Performers included Zhezhingtons, Kadder, Khoikhoi and Kay_Kid Umfanomsuthu.
The artistes showed their undoubted talent through execution of top-drawer acts.
In return, the grateful inmates showed how special the day was as they managed to pull resources to buy a present for Miss Rue.
Six dinner plates and a handmade flask is all they could afford, but to Miss Rue, this gift is everything as she will use the plates and flask with a smile and a content heart.
Saturday Leisure caught up with Miss Rue who said the gesture was an act that she had been instilled by the Lord Almighty.
Miss Rue who runs Pinworthy Investments, a company that manufactures perfumes, floor polish and detergents also runs Pinworthy closet, Pinworthy nail bar and Pinworthy beauty booth.
“To be honest, above all it was just God’s assignment that I was fulfilling. The theme was Ko ava vachaonekwa nani, meaning who will take care of inmates as I always see people going to old people’s homes, orphanages and to the disabled.
No one ever thinks of inmates. Maybe it’s because they are criminals and our society just neglects them,” said Miss Rue.
She said it is high time people are given a second lease of life as each and every person makes mistakes.
“I feel that they are a part of us and like any other person, they deserve love, support and to be accepted as we all make mistakes. I’d like to thank a number of businesspersons who also chipped in with resources to make this day memorable,” the businesswoman said.
This is not the first time that Miss Rue has shown her kindness as in November 2020, she donated a number of accessories at the prison that included soap, slippers, underwear, pads and bras among other products.
One of the inmates, Qaphelani Skhosana said the recognition on its own showed that the outside world has not forgotten them.
“I’d like to thank the Lord for the gift of life. Even though I’m in prison, I also get to have opportunities that many would wish for as our sister has put smiles on our faces,” he said.
ZPCS Chief Correctional officer Victoria Mabanzi said: “We’re happy with the gesture by Rugare who handpicked the area to celebrate her birthday. It shows that we’re facilitating reintegration and rehabilitation of the inmates.
“Miss Rue taught us very good things as this is the first time that someone has chosen a place she knows that she won’t even get a present from anyone,” said Mabanzi.
Matabeleland South Province ZPCS Principal Correctional Officer Gareth Nkomo said if a number of people follow the actions of Miss Rue, the ZPCS will surely achieve its role of rehabilitating the convicted to be better people in society. – @mthabisi_mthire