Mothusi Bashimane Ndlovu popularly known by his stage moniker ‘Madlela Skhobokhobo’ has challenged the Bulawayo business community to partner the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service in different rehabilitation programmes to help inmates successfully reintegrate back into society when they are released from prison.
Madlela made this challenge after visiting Khami Maximum Prison, where he had an opportunity to meet inmates.
In an interview, Madlela said he decided to visit inmates at Khami Maximum Prison as a way of showing solidarity and support as some prisoners rarely get visitors.
“I was invited by the Arts Ambassador of Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service Bulawayo Metropolitan province, Clarence Garura to visit inmates at Khami Maximum Prison and from this tour I can tell you that this was more of an eye opening visit to me.
“I never knew that we had such a big community that lives behind these walls and most of them really enjoy the music that I play. From this rare visit I had an opportunity to get to get to know about some of the challenges they face as I talked to them on a one on one basis,” he said.
Madlela said he met the most talented artistes behind bars, who really need the support of the community if they are to leave a life of crime and use their skills feed themselves and their families.
“I never thought inmates were this active in terms of art so, when I got the invitation from Garura I just thought it was one of those visits that I usually do when I go out there. But with Khami Maximum Prison the environment was different as inmates had been told that I was coming and they were really waiting to prove to me that they could do better in terms of their presentations.
“During entertainment sessions, inmates were invited to the centre court, where more than 1 500 inmates came for entertainment and to be honest with you I really enjoyed myself with what I saw as these guys gave their best from imbube, gospel, drama and comedy. I really enjoyed myself such that I was given a different picture of what I used to hear about how inmates were being treated while in prison. I now got to understand the issue of rehabilitation and for sure ZPCS is at work,” he said.
Madlela said the determination of the prisoners moved him to make an undertaking to become the mentor of a group called the Khami School of Arts (khasa). The group showcased one of their best plays called ‘Mathousand’ which preaches against gender based violence.
“I never thought inmates were so much up to date with what is happening outside their world, some of their plays showed me that they follow what is happening in our community on a daily basis and that really showed me that as a community we have a part to play in assisting ZPCS in the rehabilitation programs of these inmates.
“These guys need to be kept abreast and I doubt if ZPCS can be able to provide all those requirements alone, so I would like to believe that’s where we are supposed to chip in with the support of the business community as we work towards developing these guys,” he said.
Madlela said it was high time communities create time to visit prisons in order to fully appreciate the daily struggles of inmates. Inmates are expected to have at least two pairs of uniforms but that is no longer possible due to economic hardships currently being experienced as a nation.
“Some of the inmates that I saw were wearing old uniforms that I think should be replaced of which it’s not an issue of blaming ZPCS because feeding 1 500 inmates with three course meal per day is not an easy thing to do as an organisation. Instead it’s high time we chip in and assist to the best of our ability.
“I am calling the business community to assist as we all know everyone is a potential prisoner and we all never know what tomorrow has in store for us so let’s work towards improving this place.
“From my discussions with inmates I discovered that most of them had lost hope. I would like to tell them that God has a plan for everything that happens in one’s life. In fact, these guys should take this time to come up with unique ideas that can later improve their lives.
“Personally I am going to continue visiting these guys and talking to them with the hope that my words will one day change some people to be productive in our society,” he said.
Khami Maximum Prison Rehabilitation Officer, Adias Bhasvi, thanked the musician for visiting and said he hopes the visit will inspire inmates to take art seriously.
“Rehabilitation is not a one day thing, but it is a process that involves the mind-set of an individual so Madlela’s visit might seem simple, but I know that we are going to have a lot of oMadlela coming out of this place.
“Let it not end on Madlela, but let’s develop a culture of visiting our relatives and friends who are in prison as this is a therapy that helps the inmates in a long way,” he said.