When prisoners brave it for money

Not so many weekends ago, I left home for the supermarket.

As soon as joined the main road, I noticed inmateslining up the street, slashers in hand, cutting the grass that had overgrown its welcome in the peripherals of the busy road.

Within me, I appreciated the service that the incarcerated sinews rendered by cutting the grass that had now matured into a security bother to pedestrians.

In fact, one eveningwhile out on my jogging session, I overhead fellow runners worrying about the tall grass and the possibility of bandits take advantage of such bush to waylay helpless joggers.

These inmates were doing a great job!

Then quick to my mind camea discussion that a long time ago popped up among merrymakers at Civil Service Club suggesting that part of the work in constructing Civo Stadium was taken care of by inmates.

‘Olo  mundawakotu munthu ungathe kukalipira ku ofesi yandende kuti akaidi akulimire.’

The discussion was about making good of inmates instead of leaving them to rot round the clock under the unforgiving conditions of our penitentiaries.

Like many discussions at this largely silver-grey venue, this was yet another that faded at the instantaneous introduction of a new topic,even before I had exacted enough confirmation of the prisoners’ involvement in the stadium project or the possibility of hiring inmates to do my laundry!

What was more important at this point was that the inmates along the road were doing a job most frequent users of this road would have been more than appreciative to see.

In between the swings of their slashers, the inmates took breaks to plead with motorists for yasopo [money for small things and what have you].

‘Biggy, tioneniko kenakake tipeze kasopo ndi zinzake!’ shouted one inmate.

Some waved merchandise such as rings, bangles and loofahs they make right there in prison.

I wondered if prison rules now allow any money on inmates. Well, perhaps what is money if inmates can own phones and log into Facebook!

I was busy self-debating this and other matters when out of the window of a black Mazda Demio in front of my ramshackle flew a generous amount of K2 000 notes.

Like birds freed from captivity, the notes freely fluttered in all directions, sending the inmates into ecstasy.

Abandoned slashers clinked and clanked at landing on the tarmac as the inmates carelessly leapt on the road.

The best of goalkeepers in the world’s biggest football leagues could have gone dark green with envy at how the inmates dove with vitality and flexibility, hanging in the air to collectthe notes before landingon their backson the tarmac.

For motorists, it was utter disorder one can imagine. For Christ’s sake, this is on a road as busy as the M1!

The diving prisoners dangerously landed in the path of vehicles. Veering vehicles honked. Irritated drivers shouted.

The inmates were not moved an inch,their eyes stuck on the flying notes.

Prison warders watched from far off. They seemed used to all this. n


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