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LIFE AFTER PRISON: LENNY DONALD MWAMBA MULENGA

BY IREEN WATEMA

Being in prison changes someone and this is the testament of many, including Mr  Lenny Donald Mwamba Mulenga, as he talks about his experience and most importantly his life after prison.

QUESTION: Our guest today has four names and we will get to know him and the significance of these names.  We shall be encouraged and motivated by our guest.  Welcome.

Answer: Good evening.  Thank you

Question: Please briefly tell us a bit about yourself. Who is  Lenny Donald Mwamba Mulenga?

Answer:  I am Lenny Donald  Mwamba Mulenga and I am a pastor. I am leading a church called  The Living Word Pentecost Church.  The story that I can share with you here is a long, long story.  As a Pastor, I found myself in the business of selling ivory and the same business. And the same business caused me to be in prison. I went to Prison for six years and I stayed there for almost 4 years.  Four years exactly starting from 2019 February 18 up to 2023 18 February.  My dear, being in prison is very very difficult. I suffered a lot.  When I went to prison, the challenge I faced was divorce. My wife decided to divorce me while I was in prison. It was very very bad to me. Now, I was already in prison, so it was difficult to me. What was I supposed to do? She is outside and I am inside. No one who can defend me. No one who can talk on my behalf. In court they gave me almost six years. I  forgot about that until I went to prison where I stayed by the grace of God as a servant of God. God was with me. I stayed in Chimbokaila almost  1 year six months. I was head preacher there. I was the one welcoming those coming from outside to preach in prison. By the grace of God, I always appreciate because God was with me. I can’t complain.  After 1 year six months I was transferred to the open prison called Chitumba Prison. That prison my dear, those who went  there they are always crying. It is open prison but people who went there suffered, some died there.  By the grace of God, I survived. I stayed there almost 9 months until I was transferred to Mumbwa prison. It is where I got to finish my journey in prison. My coming out from prison, was something else. People were saying when you come out of prison, people they are always rejecting. People failing to welcome. At my age,  I found myself sleeping in the sitting room of my elder brother’s house. I really appreciate because he was good to me, he welcomed me. I am always praying t my heavily father to bless that brother of mine. Bu the challenge at my age was sleeping in the sitting room. Now, you know, 05 or 06 the owner  of the house… they are already up… my dear. I suffered a lot but by the grace of God as I am talking, I am well and the Lord helped fight for me. He helped me a lot . I can not complain. Bring in prison, I learnt a lot. Sometimes things happened according to his plan. To tell you the truth my daughter… let me use my mother tongue. (laughs) I  have bitten my tongue too much. (laughs).

Question: please go ahead

Answer: some things happen according to God’s will and as he desires. When I was in prison, I thought that was the end of my life because it was my first time to be in prison.  A big person like me to be found in prison, I just thought I am now dead.  Like I explained, I just entered prison and my marriage ended. I lost my mind and I was confused. Looking at my age, I wondered what I would do because they gave me too many years. But because God is merciful, just there in prison, I appreciate people who were visiting me and praying for me like other preachers. Like Mr Emmanuel Zulu. God bless him. Rev Scott Mwanza, God bless him. To all the men of God. To many to mention, I am truly thankful. They helped and supported me by visiting me. They encouraged and prayed for me. The problem with prison is that your relatives are not near, especially when they transferred from Chikombakaila to Chitumba. Chitumba is far and on  the border with Angola and for someone to visit you, transport fares are K500 one way, so K1000 for a round trip. Now the person visiting needs to bring you food. It’s a problem. So you need someone with love who is prepared to spend that amount and such people are rare. Those who have been through this particular prison can attest to what I am saying.  By the grace of God, I went through this journey  until God allowed  to be released and my relatives welcomed me. I am fine now according  to God’s will.  Being in prison you can be ignored, neglected and disrespected because  people  you are finished and there is nothing you can do after that. But when I went to prison I found   that people who did not steal are there. Like a young man I found and felt sorry for, Banda Isaac of Chaisa in Lusaka. He was tasked to look after goats and when one goat went missing, he was accused of stealing, taken to court and jailed one year. After two months, the goat was found in another village. So prison is hard and looks imple when someone else is involved.  People think that when you go to prison, then you are a thief. It is not everyone who is a thief. No. This journey is difficult because you can be neglected, forgotten just like me.

Question : Now that you are out people want to visit you?

Answer: Yes, they claim that they did not have time or chance or know where to find me. My daughter, being in prison, one has to be very strong.  That’s why some people try to escape from prison but running away is not is not the solution because you are creating more problems.

It means you are carrying prison on your head. You will not hide forever and they will recapture you. And once you are caught, you start serving your term from start like you never served.  Even if you served two years, it has no value when you are recapture.  When you are in prison, you are overwhelmed and you start thinking of shortcuts. You have to be strong to be in prison and pray to God for help.  That is what I did. God helped. I got sick and nearly died.

Question: Is this while in prison?

Answer: Yes my daughter.  I was unconscious or near death. That’s when I realise  that when a person dies, he can hear. Because I was sick and the prison warders were asking to open my eyes but I couldn’t.  lift your arms, but I couldn’t.  I could hear but my arm could not rise. They could life my arm but it fell and they even confirmed that he is gone. I could hear and they even decided to go and prepare an ambulance to carry my body. So where I was laying I asked God. Am I dead? Me Mwamba dying in prison?  God what will my children be told? That your dad died in prison? That’s when I realised that God is really there. This is a great testimony my daughter.  I asked God, if I die here in prison what will be the testimony in my family? They will continue shouting at my children that your dad was a useless man and died in prison. So I said God if you are there,  Jehovah Jaireh, the one who makes a way where there is no way. I don’t want to die in prison. If you are the one who installed the life of Hezekial, then restore my life. My daughter immediately, I just heat like I was attached to electric current.  I sat up. The man next to me shouted, mr preacher you are awake. I  thought you died. I said no I did not die. That’s  how God gave me life in prison. That’s how my days in prison also ended.

Question: what has been your experience after prison

Answer: life was tough.   I had no wife. I explained that y wife divorced me.  I was just told, its over. There was nothing I could do.  I thank God that my cousin welcomed. I pray to God to bless Samuel Chanda. He is an elder in Grace Church. This young man tried his best and using his money to come and visit me in Mumbwa.  When I came out, my family sat and decided that I should go and stay with my cousin in Avondale. That is where  went.  It was a big house but there were many people and so I found myself sleeping in the sitting room.  I later learnt about ZAMEP  and this is the organisation which has helped to look the way I do now. ZRA has also helped us. They gave  us 2000 birds (layers ) and we have been selling eggs. Do you see looking health. Do I like I am from jail? Life after prison is hard if you are not strong or you don’t have people to help you. Because when you leave prison, you are disregarded and people look at you like you are rubbish.  Just like an animal depending on your family. I was luck, though I suffered but God helped me.  I am ok now and living well. I have money .

Questions: what are some of the skills you learnt in prison helping you now.

Answer: I did not learn skills because when I went to prison, I was a preacher and was preaching in prison.  I also knew tailoring.  I was therefore teaching tailoring at Mumbwa prison and I had 47 students. I was even given a certificate after they recognised my skill.  I also have letters of recommendation.

Question: society is very judgemental, how do you deal with that?

Answer: When a person leaves prison, for that person to be fine, it is the people outside to assist that person.. Unfortunately people think that ex prisoners are thieves and even at home people treat us with mistrust. In prison there are many preachers and people turn to God but when they are outside, they get rejected. Anyone can go to prison if they do wrong.

Question: How does one pick up after prison

Answer:  there are skills in prison and if one learns well, they will be assisted. One should focus on their skill. ZAMEP also helps by welcoming ex prisoners.  This is what will help one make a living and prevent one from going back to prison.  No one wants to go back to prison, to be watched 24/7. So one has to choose what to do based on their skill.

This is Life After Prison, a program supported by the WAN IFRA WOMEN IN NEWS, however, views expressed here do not represent WAN IFRA WOMEN IN NEWS.

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