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LIFE AFTER PRISON: chaplain samapango

BY IREEN WATEMA

This is a platform to where people who have spent time in prison get to share their experience inside and outside prison and how society receives them. This is the story of Chaplain Samapango:

Question: we are glad that you are here to share your story.  Please tell us a bit about Chaplain Samapango Samapango.

Answer:  Chaplain Samapango is an ex prisoner. The crime that I was accused to have committed was aggravated robbery and murder.  It was a time when I was with my friends and we went to a village and that is where we committed the crime. I was caught with my brother and that’s how I was taken to Chimbokaila. So while in prison, I used  to preach a lot.   I was committed to the High Court and then there because of prayers. I was so much committed to prayers and by the grace of God I was acquitted. When I was acquitted, it was after five years.

Question: what is behind the name Chaplain?

Answer I am called a chaplain  because I am now working with an organization called Good News Global. Like here in Lusaka I am the chairman for Good News Global. There are other leaders who are under me and I usually go to Chimbokaila, Mwembeshi maximum, Mwembeshi open remand, and even at Chainama prison, I usually go there. To go and share what I have gone through. The way God saved me when I was in prison,  I need to share with my fellow ex prisoners that even as they come outside, they are prepared.  God had mercy upon me and I was acquitted . When I joined Good News Global, I trained at Misenga near Chingola where I was  trained as a Chaplain. And  even at the moment  I usually go for Central Africa Baptist university in Kitwe and the same organization is the one which is sponsoring me. I usually meet with chaplains from prison, police and other government departments. So I am pursuing that chaplaincy which takes almost 2 years to finish.

Question : Now we want to understand the story behind, you share with us how  you got incarcerated and what led to you being in prison, at  Mukobeko Maximum Prison.  There are events you have alluded to your prison term, how  did this happen and how long were you in prison?

Answer: This incident happened in 2013, and I stayed there for almost 5 years. You know it takes time. When  you are in court, first you  go to the subordinate court and there are things to write there by the magistrate and after being tried by the magistrate then you are committed. The capital offenses do not end at subordinate but need to go to the high court. So that’s how I was committed to the high court and there  I was tried by Judge Masiku. Now because of evidence that was there, it was not sufficient for me to be convicted. You know when you commit a crime like aggravated robbery or murder, they are second to treason. IN Zambia first case that is high is treason. When you commit  treason you know that if convicted you can face the death penalty. But by the grace I was saved. You commit aggravated robbery some of the things they look at  are four things. First is identification. If people where you committed the crime where able to identify you that this is the person who committed the crime, or stole from our house or premises. Then that stands. The second is you need to confess that yes I am the one who did this. The third one is when you lead the police to the scene of the crime, then they know where you committed the crime. But the police makes sure that you lead them to the place  where you committed the crime. The fourth one is identification. The way I am putting on this jacket. When the complainants come and say yes this is the one and even the jacket he is wearing is our property.  Then the property from where  you committed the crime. Then all those four you find that they are on you. Then you will be convicted. Because for you to be committed to the death sentence, the penalty is too heavy. But with me I had only identification.  When they apprehended me I was at central prison, and the people who were complaining were at Matero. So the time when they were taking me from central police to Matero, those people were already there. So when we go to the police, they made a mistake. They didn’t cover me so that I could not be seen. So by the time we were going there those witnesses saw me.

And they were able to identify me and even me I  complained to the judge that the time  I was being taken to the police those witnesses saw me and that is why they identified me.  Even the judge was convinced that it should not have been done like that.

Question :  so that is why sometimes we see people at court covering themselves, so it is to protect their identity.

Answer: Yes. Because there are witnesses and they will say it is you even you are innocent.

Question : how was your experience in prison and how were you received?

Answer: my experience in prison is that prison is not a good place. There is chitakata and this is where you are crowded in short.  The officers were very cooperative and encouraging that there were others before us and that even us we would leave.  You take it like it is the end of the world. But I had an opportunity for because when I went there I was a Christian.  As a preacher, I even had where to sleep and not chitakata like my friends.

Question: How is the experience compared to the women? Is it easier for men than women?

Answer: The women have got their own side, I can’t say anything about how the women are treated but from the men’s side, the select captains and these are the ones who look after us. When you are locked up at 16:00 hours that’s when the captains take charge. And there are para para and they will give you a charge that you beat your friend or you didn’t behave well. And whatever happens in the night is brought to the captain and captain will punish you. So that is how they were treating us but all in all. Its prison to your if you are there it is something else.  It is a very bad place.

Question: so how has being in prison for five years impacted your life?

Answer: Being in prison for five years, I thank that I learnt a lot.  What I learnt in prison is that being in prison won’t change you but the word of God will change you. That is what I learnt. If one is not converted when in prison then when they come out it is worse. They will probably go back to prison. There is a certain prisoner given a death penalty and was pardoned and when that man was released, he was given a tracker and farm to be farming but because he did not change when he was inside, he organized a robbery and was killed.

Question: You can now tell us about your life after prison. Just paint a picture of how life has been?

Answer: Let me just make a correction. I never went to  Mukobeko but chimbokaila.  When I came out of prison, life was not easy. It was so difficult for me because 5 years in prison is a long period. And when I came out I found that all the property that I left,  I found it was not there. Even my wife, I found that she was impregnated by my friend. So life was very difficult. If it wasn’t for knowing the word of God, I would have committed a crime or maybe killed the same man who impregnated my wife.  Even sleeping was a problem and you know when you are in prison, even members of your family treat you as if you are not a part of the family. So my sleeping was so difficult and even eating was difficult. No one to embrace or welcome me. Every time I  wanted to eat, I would look for  where there is a funeral and pretend that I am a mourner who had just come. So that this what I would do and I would even move with a 2.5 container, that was my pillow.  That is where I was sleeping. Now one day I was busy saying the person who died was my friend and that we used to play and drink together, not knowing  I had been given wrong information because it was a child who had died. So other mourners just said I was lost and I should look for the house of my friend who had died. (laughs)

Question: How long did it take for you to get yourself together and adapt and move on?

Answer: Mmmmm It took some time for me. I tried to go to a church, the church where I used to congregate when I was in prison ( I wont mention the name). When I went   and told them that I was now out and needed help, they told me to go and look for piece work elsewhere. I had gone to the pastor because when he was sharing with us in prison, he was saying we should go there when we come out. So I went straight there. But things did not work out. He was upset that I went to his house.

Question: did you have children before going to prison. Are you in touch with family and friends or did you lose both?

Answer: My former wife is now late (May her soul rest in peace), but I have another wife now.

Question: what is your word of encouraging? What has kept you pushing?

Answer:  what has kept me pushing is the word of God.

This program is supported by the WAN IFRA WOMEN IN NEWS, however, views expressed here do no represent WAN-IFRA WOMEN IN NEWS.

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