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Catherine Gomeka’s remarkable journey to recovery after spending time in prison begins with her counting how she ended up behind bars before she found freedom. This is her story :

Question: Tell us a bit about yourself

Answer: I did my education in Chingola on the Copperbelt  where I was staying with my dad. I went to Chikola secondary school but did finish there after my dad died. I went to live with my mother in Ndola and eventually got married. Unfortunately the marriage did not last. Because of differences, it ended.

Question: Now tell us what happened and how you found yourself in prison?

Answer: I am happy to share this story on this platform. I was with a customer care for a company and was receiving money. And I had an idea that I could use this money and pay it back. I can in hindsight say this was a bad idea and it does not work. I made a loss and could not pay back. This took me nowhere. Someone reported to my employers about what I had done. I was not even around as I was in Nakonde when police called that I should report to Woodlands police station to answer to some query. I said ok. The police kept calling and asking where I had reached and the moment I got home in Lusaka they called again. I told them that I was home. I didn’t even take a bath and I was taken to Woodlands Police.  That was 2016 and even though I was not entirely innocent, I did not believe I was guilty of all the counts they gave me.

Catherine Gomeka

And remember that I was a mother and my worry was what would happen to my children and the dependents . My case was so complicated and I didn’t even know how I was going to come out of it. I was in police cells for three weeks before I was released. With no income, we had to leave the rented house because I was not working.  So my mother decided that she takes my children while I remained in Lusaka to deal with the case. I really did not know what would happen to me. Luckily my neighbor, Mr and Mrs Phiri assisted with capital to start selling second hand cloths with capital of K2.500.

A police officer then introduced me to  man of God and through him I met another woman who connected me to a company that needed a marketing officer. So I continued selling second hand clothes until the company called me for interviews as a receptionist. I stopped selling second hand clothes and started work. By then I had also started going to court. Now the time came when I thought  how I would continue going to court by giving excuses to my bosses. So I decided to brave the consequences and told them the truth.

That’s how my boss made arrangements to be allowed to attend court sessions.  Later I tried to get Legal Aid but it never worked. It reached a stage where I just had to get a lawyer. The lawyer took me upto the time I was convicted in 2021. The matter dragged from 2016 and it was my life was on hold because I didn’t know how it was going to be. I got my young daughter and later even my older daughter also came back. But at the back of my mind I was worried about being convicted. You know when this comes and you are not ready for it. It was very tough.

You know that  some people just want to break the news and spread rumours, it is tough. So I was on an emotional roller coaster. For five years. It was tough. I had fake friends who were just waiting for me to be convicted. So I knew that my fate was just in the hands of God.

There was a time I wanted to talk to the complainant but she just started cursing me and my children and this was after being guided by a man of God. So I just said ok let it be.

Question: So when were you convicted and  how long did you serve?

Answer: So I was given 24 months, but when they remove holidays, it came to one year six months. But I never completed the term because I was released on a presidential pardon in 2022 on Africa Freedom Day.

QUESTION: How did you feel when you heard that you were going home?

Answer: You know when you are inside, you just want to be home and when it is time for the presidential pardon, you just want your name to be there. So when it came, I was just happy. It was an emotional moment. I can not explain the excitement.

QUESTION: Now having been in prison, and you have told us what transpired and having legal representation. So did you have family walking with you in this journey or you were on your own?

Answer:  My family was there even if my mother and sister were in a different town, but we were in touch. They were with me from the time I was imprisoned.

QUESTION: So now that you came out of prison, can you tell us how has been your life?

ANSWER: My life after prison, I had to start afresh because I had obviously lost that job. My family and children were there when I was being released. But my worry was now that I was out, where would I get school fees for my children? Shelter,  Food? I came out in May and end of June, I was called to go and work  and in July I started working. The employer did not look at my past. He just said look at the future. My children are able to eat.

QUESTION: So you did not sit in a corner and cry your eyes out? And it was not all roses? What has been pushing you?

ANSWERS: What really made me to start is the dream that I carry. I am alive and can not let my dream to die. I just said I must reconstruct my life and to show to others that it is possible to recobnstruct one’s life. I spent five years going to court and over a year in prison but I still told myself that I can still start afresh.


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