By Dr Masimba Mavaza
The Makumbe Primary School headmaster who spent two years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in the rape of a 13 year-old girl has been acquitted by the High court.
Silas Chitate who was the Makumbe Primary school headmaster when he was accused of the crime, spent nearly two years in jail before he was released on the 22nd July 2021 after his lawyer Eucheriah Makaka successfully and passionately argued his case before Justices Kwenda and Chikowero.
Mr Silas Chitate who was a primary school headmaster was jailed for 18 years for raping a 13-year-old orphan who lives at Makumbe Children’s Home has been freed by the High Court.
Silas Chikowero who has always maintained his innocence, had been a victim of “extreme and continuous emotional justice. Chitate 58 was suddenly released late last week after the High Court absolved him and vacated his convictions.
Chitate had been a victim of “extreme and continuous police misconduct.” And emotional Justice where the court was clearly overtaken by emotions and not the facts and law.
If it was not the competence of his Lawyer at appeal Eucharist Makaka he would have died in prison.
Silas Chitate came out of a Brocken man having lost his job his dignity and his freedom.
Silas Chitate was convicted after a full trial in 2018 and spent two years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In 2018 Mr Silas Chitate was sentenced to eighteen years in prison when he was accused of an offence alleged to have been committed in his house on June 22nd 2018. Chitate who was meant meant to stay in prison for an effective 15 years after Harare magistrate Nyasha Vhitorini conditionally set aside three years had pleaded not guilty but his please where thrown in the bin. The magistrates emotions were visible in the comments made in passing his sentence.
In passing his sentence, Vhitorini ruled that Chitate’s moral blameworthiness was very high considering that he violated an innocent child who looked up to him as a parent and leader.
“A lengthy custodial sentence will be appropriate in this case,” said the magistrate in a case where Chitate turned to be a victim of sympathy.
During his appeal his legal practitioner Mrs Euchariah Makaka of Zimudzi and Associates successfully argued that Chitate was wrongfully convicted over tainted evidence.
Arguing before Justices Kwenda and Justice Chikowero Makaka proved that Chitate was a free man who paid for the emotions of the court. Emotional justice has sacrificed the living father and a humble headmaster whose life was destroyed by allegations which lacked the truth and not accompanied with reason.
The High Court Justices ordered Chitate’s immediate release from prison. Chitate had spent two years of his life as convicted rapist in jail. The two years he will never recover and the damage caused by these two years is irreparable and indeed devastating.
In the comments by magistrate Vhitorini which portrayed Silas Chitate as a monster she said
“It’s disappointing and shocking to imagine that a school head, as old and educated as he is, would take advantage of such a young girl who has a whole future ahead of her.
“The accused has destroyed the life of the complainant physically and socially and should get a severe and appropriate punishment.”
Giving her testimony, the orphanage’s matron, Diana Kanyere, 59, now 61 said she noticed the girl was having difficulties in walking.
She did not question her that day but managed to notice that Chitate had done something to the girl after he came begging to take her for another sporting event. Kanyere said she did not release the victim because she was writing exams.
She went on to question the teenager who narrated her ordeal. The case was reported to the police leading to Chitate’s arrest. A medical affidavit tendered in court confirmed that the girl was abused.
Diana Kanyere who had had a continuous personal grudge with Silas Chitate failed to take into account that the girl was a basket ball player who had been in a contest the previous day. She did not consider any injury from the sports but just blamed Chitate and convinced the police and the court to punish Chitate.
In his defence Chitate told the court then that he was being persecuted because of a long standing conflict with Diana Kanyere. Chitate said the complainant was being used as a weapon against Chitate.
Chitate was released from Prison on Wednesday night and reunited with his family members after the court approved a petition to overturn his murder conviction.
“Oh God is good, Silas You are home. Oh Lord have mercy,” one relative said while embracing Silas Chitate soon after his release.
Silas Chitate’s exoneration is the sweetest news and a culmination of hard work. It is always emotional and I feel like crying said his lawyer, Eucheriah Makaka.
Speaking after the victory Lawyer Mrs Makaka said “It should be an accepted principle of fairness in our society to compensate citizens who, through no fault of their own, have suffered imprisonment.
strangely, the wrongfully imprisoned, who lose property, jobs, freedom, reputation, family, friends and more do not receive compensation.”
For decades, many people, criminal justice professionals included, didn’t acknowledge the extent of error in the criminal justice system. There must be a way to make the victims of wrongful conviction repay their losses or helping them get re-established in the free world.
Speaking after his release Silas Chitate said his “Ordeal must not be Ignored.”
Psychological research of the wrongfully convicted shows that their years of imprisonment are profoundly scarring. Many suffer from post- traumatic stress disorder, institutionalization and depression, and some were victimized themselves in prison. Physically, they have aged ahead of their peers, and often their health has suffered from years of sub-standard prison health care. Professionally, they lag far behind, lacking the job experiences, and vocational or educational training to be competitive in the workforce. In the case of Chitate Family members have passed away, children have grown, spouses and partners have moved on. Mr Kennedy Mupomba a UK social worker and a lawyer commented “The exonerated are released into a world that has changed dramatically from the one they knew, and they too have dramatically changed.
State offer little to no immediate support services to help with the transition. Zimbabwe does not have a compensation law so Chitate may not get state compensation, unless he sued for wrongful conviction and demanding his job back and payment of full backdated salary.
Even from the first joyous day of release, exonerees face the immediate crisis of where to sleep, how to eat and how to provide for themselves. The state should immediately extend a helping hand and provide the compassionate assistance necessary for exonerees to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. Instead, the state leave the released persons no other option but to sue.
Lawsuits are not a viable alternative to state compensation; they require a long, protracted legal battle with a slow guarantee of success.
Now Silas Chitate is left to ponder his next move as a free man. Mrs Makaka said she awaits further instructions from her client and an appropriate action will be taken.