Ex-political prisoner takes minister to court
A MAN who allegedly failed to meet the criteria to be declared an ex-political detainee has taken the Government to court challenging his exclusion.
Jimitias Chigurugudu, through his lawyers Garikayi and Company, has filed a court application at the Bulawayo High Court citing the Minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Ex-Political Detainees and Restrictees, Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube and the chairperson of the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Board as the respondents.
Rtd Col Dube, through lawyers from the Civil Division of the Attorney-General’s Office, said the second respondent was non-existent as there was no board for Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees.
Chigurugudu said he served for four months at Chiredzi Prison during the liberation struggle. He went through the vetting process in 2007, but due to the length of his prison term, he failed to qualify for ex-political prisoner status.
In terms of section 2 of the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act, a person is only recognised as an ex-political prisoner if her or she was imprisoned for a period of not less than six months.
Chigurugudu, who claims to have organised political meetings alongside the late Vice-President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo among other liberation icons, wants a court order declaring him an ex-political prisoner in terms of section 2 of the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act.
Chigurugudu said he was arrested in January 1976 by Rhodesian Central Intelligence officers and taken to Triangle Police Station for violating the Law and Order Maintenance Act when he mobilised masses to attend a political meeting.
“I was arrested in January 1976 for mobilising masses to attend the UANC political meeting in December 1975. I was tried before a court of law which convicted and sentenced me to five years in jail without option of a fine of which four-and-a half years were suspended. Consequently, I was detained at Chiredzi Prison on February 18, 1977 and released on June 18, 1977 after effectively serving my sentence. I spent four months in jail after two months were remitted,” said Chigurugudu.
He argued that he qualified to be declared an ex-political prisoner by virtue of the restriction imposed on him by the suspended sentence.
“The suspended sentence restricted me from participating in any political gatherings or violating the Law Maintenance and Order Act for five years. My understanding is that if one is sentenced to six months in prison and they end up spending even a month, it does not mean that they did not effectively serve six months imprisonment. I therefore qualify to be declared an ex-political prisoner as I meet the minimum requirements,” said Chigurugudu.
Rtd Col Dube said Chigurugudu failed to meet the requirements.
“The applicant does not qualify as an ex-political prisoner in terms of section 2 of the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act, which expressly provides for imprisonment and detention of up to a period of at least six months. The Act does no refer to the sentence, but the actual period of detention served which qualifies one to be declared a political detainee or restrictee,” he said.
The Government pays ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees monthly gratuities for their contribution to the liberation struggle.
Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube