In a daring escape that has left authorities baffled, 23-year-old prisoner Kudzayi Brighton Tembo managed to vanish from the supposedly impenetrable confines of Chawagona Hapana prison in Mashonaland Central. This maximum-security facility, renowned for its impeccable record of successful containment, had not seen an escape in years.
Tembo, who was part of a rehabilitation program aimed at preparing prisoners for their reintegration into society, took advantage of a moment of opportunity on a warm Monday morning. Working in the fields, he found himself unchained and guarded by only one prison officer, while four others toiled outside, basking in the sun and oblivious to the impending breach.
It is believed that Tembo, dressed in a black T-shirt, made his move around 10 am. Seizing the chance provided by the bright sunlight, he melted away into the vibrant green maize and yellow banana fields, expertly navigating the lush vegetation nourished by the recent rains. With each passing moment, his trail grew colder, leaving the prison officers and authorities dumbfounded.
Authorities have launched a full-scale manhunt to capture Tembo, who had been serving a five-year sentence for unlawful entry and theft charges. His release was scheduled for April 2026. Law enforcement agencies scramble to locate him.
Recounting the events leading up to the escape, a senior officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Tembo is of average height and light in complexion, with a Manica accent. Witnesses who spotted the fugitive on the day of his escape noted that he was partially clad, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. Unfortunately, their assumptions mistook him for a mentally challenged individual, providing Tembo with a momentary cloak of anonymity.
Police suspect that Tembo may have sought refuge at his residence in the Gulliver area of Bindura, where friends and a relative may have facilitated his flight or concealed his whereabouts. Authorities are urging the public to come forward with any information regarding Tembo’s location and are particularly interested in reports of individuals returning from prison under suspicious circumstances.
“We incarcerate offenders to protect members of the public. Our job is to rehabilitate and equip them with skills so that they are reintegrated back into society as changed and better citizens,” emphasized the senior officer.
Instances of prisoners contemplating escape are not uncommon, often fuelled by dissatisfaction with prison conditions. However, this is the first incident of its kind in recent years at Chawagona Hapana prison, a testament to its reputation for secure containment. A previous escape was reported at Kingston Prison Farm in Mashonaland Central, underscoring the need for heightened vigilance across all correctional facilities.
Law enforcement officials are urging the public to report any information that may lead to the capture of Tembo, emphasizing the importance of abstaining from harbouring fugitives or resorting to vigilante justice. Instead, they encourage citizens to make a citizen’s arrest and promptly hand over any apprehended individuals to the police.