HARARE-The jailbreak attempt at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in March was politically-motivated and involved members of the security forces who worked with the inmates in a bid to embarrass President Mugabe who was on an official visit to Japan.
Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services Deputy Commissioner General Agrey Huggins Machingauta said inmates had roped in members of the prison services, the police, the army and intelligence services.
Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta revealed this while giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs chaired by Bubi MP Cde Clifford Sibanda (Zanu-PF) that had invited him to explain what transpired on the day in question.
He said according to their intelligence, the objective of the inmates was to attack senior Government officials once they made good their escape.
“Outside assistance, communication and information was being smuggled into the prison through visitors,” said Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta. “We actually have names of outsiders who were coming to give information.
“Within the prison they had committees with a chairman and this lady would come as an ordinary visitor and ask to see the chairman. This outsider had also recruited our own officers, members of the ZRP, Zimbabwe Defence Forces and members of the intelligence.
“That is what we are getting and we have not verified; it is difficult to verify that. Chikurubi Maximum Prison disturbances were really an unfortunate incident which was influenced by outside forces.”
Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta said the other motive of the attempted escape was to embarrass President Mugabe.
“This (the attempted jailbreak) could also be politically-motivated,” he said. “The motive behind the riotous behaviour was mainly to escape from prison in order to shame the ZPCS and the nation at large.
“You may recall that the timing coincided with the visit of His Excellency to Japan, hence the calculation was to embarrass the Head of State while he was in a foreign country.”
Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta said food could not have been the main cause of the attempted jailbreak.
“Yes, the issue of food, of course we agree that they were eating sadza nemunyemba which is not very pleasant, but we have heard food shortages before,” he said.
“In 2007 and 2008 we actually lost lives in our prison because of lack of food, but we have never had riotous situations.
“So, we wouldn’t want to buy the idea that the food caused it. There were other motives. The food issue was a factor which the inmates wanted to use to cover up for outside influence. Thus we urge our lawmakers to lobby for the provision of adequate food items cognisant of the fact that a hungry man is an angry man.”
Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta said during the ensuing melee, one of the inmates grabbed a cellphone from a prison officer and called NewsDay, claiming that the prison was on fire and advised the journalist to alert the world that the lives of inmates were in danger.
All the inmates, said Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta, could have left the prison had authorities not used prior intelligence they had gathered from sister security organisations, which led them to beef up security to counter any escape bid.
He said police were carrying out their investigations and ZPCS had submitted all the information they gathered.
He said a commission of inquiry commissioned by ZPCS Commissioner General Paradzai Zimondi had completed its probe.
Dep Comm-Gen Machingauta declined to comment on reports that jailed RMG End Time leader Robert Gumbura was actively involved in the jailbreak, saying since the matter was before the courts, it was subjudice.
Gumbura, together with eight other inmates, are in the courts facing several charges arising from the attempted jailbreak.