The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Masvingo region is reported to have recently released a convicted child rapist from Mutimurefu Prison so that he could enjoy a one-day golf jamboree at Masvingo Golf Club.
Aubrey Cummings, a businessman is serving a 15-year jail sentence after being convicted of repeatedly raping his minor niece since she was in grade six up until she was in secondary school.
Cummings was the minor’s guardian and the first incident of the rape happened at his Rhodene house when the girl was 11 years old.
He was however allowed to participate in the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS), Commissioner General’s Goodwill Trust Fund golf tournament held on April 13.
He played in a four ball that included some respected golfers. After the tournament, sources said, Cummings was chauffeured to a more comfortable cell at Masvingo Remand Prison for the night, instead of being immediately driven back to Mutimurefu.
When Cummings was sentenced by regional magistrate Dambudzo Malunga in 2017, he swore and threatened his minor victim – who is now 16 years of age – with unspecified action once he got released from prison.
Some fellow golfers were horrified by the arrangement, saying the move showed that real jail time in Zimbabwe was for the poor. “We have an unrepentant rapist who, upon being sent to prison, threatened the victim right in front of the court now being pampered with VIP treatment and being allowed to play golf.
“It was an uninformed decision which tainted the spirit of the tournament, one of whose objectives is to raise funds to improve the welfare of vulnerable children and orphans. What message then does that sent to society?” said one golfer who preferred anonymity.
Another one said ZPCS was abusing its so-called rehabilitative programmes to treat rich people with kiddies’ gloves. “I think that was a disgraceful thing to do. Cummings has not yet served even two years of his lengthy prison term yet he is already being allowed to enjoy select luxury privileges.
“ZPCS must have considered the feelings of the young girl who was repeatedly abused. And to imagine that it all happened a few weeks after we commemorated International Women’s Day is outrageous,” said another golfer.
Others said the inclusion of Cummings was a PR disaster for an organisation that claims to champion the cause of justice and for a tournament that seeks to, among other things, help the cause of vulnerable children.
“He enjoyed cold drinks, braaied meat and a warm bath like everybody else. He didn’t at all look like a prisoner. You could see he was having a time of his life,” complained another player.
When contacted for comment, ZPCS Masvingo public relations officer Stanslous Sanike said it was usual for them to allow Cummings to play in the tournament.
“We often do that. He is a golfer so he was allowed to play as part of our rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for prisoners,” said Sanike.
When asked what criteria are used to select beneficiaries, Sanike said any prisoner could be considered to go out and play.
“Any person can apply for permission. We however consider such things as good behavior and wouldn’t release somebody who endangers community,” he said.
He, however, would not confirm whether or not special sleeping arrangements were made for Cummings after the tournament.Sources at Mutimurefu, however, said Cummings was being given preferential treatment because he had a ‘good working relationship with the prison’.
“Some of our vehicles are serviced at his workshop when they break down. He also recently bought a big TV screen for the prison so he was rewarded with his own separate cell where he has unlimited access to satellite television. He also doesn’t eat prison food because he is a Muslim who should only take halaal. His family brings him warm food from home every day,” said the source.
Recent media revelations were that corruption was getting out of hand in prisons, with reports that prison warders and guards were working with rich inmates in such vices as smuggling contraband, facilitating secret conjugal visits and setting up illicit business deals.
Three prison officers are currently on trial in Harare on many allegations that include favouring businessman Munyaradzi Kereke, who is serving time for rape, with unscheduled visits by his wives and extra time behind prison walls while other prisoners toiled.