Born again behind bars

November 4, 2017 was a day of renewal and confession for 123 inmates from
Chikurubi Farm Prison.

The criminals, who were convicted of serious offences, sat patiently in
the prison chapel, waiting for their turn to be baptised.

As they emerged from the baptism font, the inmates took their first steps
into a new life, never mind that they remained prisoners.

For Christians, baptism is an act of obedience, symbolising the believer’s
death to sin, the burial of the old life and the resurrection to walk in
newness of life.

In short, it is called being born again.

Among the recently baptised prisoners was 32-year-old Prayer Sigauke, who
was convicted of rape in 2008 and sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

He left his wife and four children in Gokwe after conviction interrupted
their eight years of marriage.

Sigauke used to do drama in Gokwe and was popular in primary and secondary
schools for his acts.

But in those audiences were his potential victims.

Now nearing the end of his prison term, and after uncountable counselling
sessions and church services, he feels the old Sigauke has died.

“I know I wronged many and no-one can ever understand the shame I feel
right now. I heard my wife remarried, but I would love to one day
reconcile and ask for forgiveness; not only from her but also from those I
wronged,” he said.

This is one chapter of his life that he regrets.

The second chapter he loathes is that of sodomising other inmates. Sigauke
says all that is now in the past.

In 2010, 26-year-old Daniel Mutema entered Chikurubi to serve a 12-year
sentence after pleading guilty to armed robbery. Three of his mates
intentionally ate poisoned food and died.

“For the many years I have been in prison, all I could think of was
finding ways of getting out of here. The criminal mind that brought me in
here kept signalling me to make plans to escape prison.

“I even planned to continue with crime after leaving prison but God spoke
to me,” said Mutema.

He says God spoke to him in a dream and he was converted and was baptised.

But he still feels bad about the things he did.

“I do not know how exactly to ask for forgiveness from all those that I
wronged. My heart yearns for forgiveness and that I be able to advance the
Kingdom of God,” said Mutema.

For inmates, baptism is a mixture of overwhelming joy and anxiety. They
are happy to be born again, they are anxious for forgiveness.

Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services deputy chaplain Gift Chirara
says confession is the first step.

“We anticipate a change of lifestyle from these inmates after taking this
courageous step of repenting and baptism; with programmes like Another
Chance which are meant to help them reunite with the ones they wronged.

For some, exposing their skeletons to other inmates is something they
cannot attempt.

“`I cannot let my mates hear of my past, they will prey on my weaknesses.’
`I don’t want them to know about my guilty conscience because this will
make me a laughing stock in here and make me a weak fellow.’

“Although they have received Christ as their personal saviour, the inmates
still want to keep their tales away from their mates,” said Chirara.