Not Guilty

He was wearing a khaki over-sized prison garb. I tried to avoid giving him a second look. The more I tried, the more tears started streaming down the contours of my cheeks. Many thoughts came to my mind, the ill-cooked porridge, typhoid, diarrhoea, the lice infested cells and the danger of being sodomised.

He tried to fake a smile – but I knew deep down he was hurting. Many years were passing by. Each and every passing year had a hardening effect on him – but he never forgot or stopped praying. He even became more prayerful than before. Nhamo was a young man who had mastered well the art of kneeling down.

Nhamo was a very kind-hearted guy who always radiated a contagious smile, he had rare display of kindness and natural and immeasurable love for people. He was one of the few souls around the neighbourhood. He was more concerned with his small business enterprise than in sitting in the street corners and smoking marijuana than most of us. He operated a small shop. Nhamo always made it a routine – to smile to his customers. Some days when I just felt low, I would just make it a point to take a stroll down the street up to his shop. At times I would just buy candy for R5 (five South African rands). His smile would brighten my day. I would go back to my cramped one room feeling rejuvenated.

It was close to 3 days without seeing him behind the counter. The fruit vendors told me they saw him in handcuffs and leg irons being frogmarched into the police van. I sensed trouble. He was framed for a crime he did not commit.Friends and relatives used to frequent the Remand Prison. As time passed by – they started coming once in a week, once in a month and once in a year and eventually they stopped. I always made it a point to see him once every week. Years seemed to have dragged slowly.

On a sombre and heavily overcast one Saturday morning I woke up to the shocking news that Nhamo was no More.
Such is life when the innocent rot and die in prison. Nhamo left a void which is irreplaceable. We were pained, we cried, we grieved but we had to learn to adjust to live with the painful loss. We know no amount of words will ever bring him back.

It is our daily prayer that his soul has found serenity in the silence of death.

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