Starting school and reaching grade eight in jail is my greatest achievement, says 44 -year-old inmate Africa Banda.

Africa and his young brother Afunika Penious Njovu, 39, are serving a 25-year sentence at Mwembeshi Maximum Correctional Facility.

In 2007, the brothers were slapped with a death penalty after being convicted of aggravated robbery and murder but it was reduced to 25 years.

Sharing his prison experience with News Diggers! Banda, who hails from Petauke, says because of jail, he has learnt how to speak English.

“I would say, starting my grade one to eight while here [in jail] is my greatest achievement. I have also done general agriculture and mechanics. I can assemble a vehicle without any challenges. I can speak English which I was unable to speak or write when I was out there because my father died when I was young and there was no one to take me to school,” Banda says.

But not everything has been rosy since he was detained.

Banda laments that he could not attend his wife and children’s funerals.

“My most painful moment in my life was when I received the news of the death of my wife and three children. It was and it is still something that I am failing to do away with. Mostly, that I couldn’t bid farewell to them. I failed to attend because I am here. I am serving my jail term. It is always a difficult moment on my part to forget,” he recalls with tears in his eyes.

“My wife got depressed because right after I was detained, all the businesses couldn’t stand. I used to have a very goo cattle business. So she was always worried and it killed her. One of my children died from malaria and my other two got sick and died whilst in boarding school. I hate the fact that I was not there.”

And his young brother, Afunika, who has studied art and music while in jail, says his prayer is to finally be free.

“My greatest prayer now is that God should one day extend his mercy and grace on me and my brother so that we can be out of here. We are here because of buying a stolen item. It is painful because if we were out
there, our mother who is very old and widow would not be suffering. We have accepted the situation. Soon we shall be out,” says Afunika.

Despite being convicted for aggravated robbery and murder, the brothers claim their only offense was to buy a stolen vehicle.

“It happened in 2007. I was a cattle businessman and when I saw that my business was expanding, I thought of buying a car so that it can be helping me in terms of easing my movements. I contacted my childhood
friend then, Patrick Phiri to help me find a second hand vehicle,” Banda narrated.

“Patrick brought a car to my house which he said belonged to his friends and after we talked and agreed on the amount, I got the money I had kept for my business and paid for the car because it was in good condition. I remember two days after buying the car, I was visited by some policemen who came to inquire about the vehicle. They asked me where I got the vehicle from? I told them that my friend Patrick sold it to me. They asked me if I could take them to the same Patrick and I accepted. We then proceeded to Patrick’s house but couldn’t find him. We went to his relative’s house still he was not there. After searching for a day, the police officers then asked me and my young brother whom I was keeping to accompany them to a crime scene in Ndola where the vehicle was stolen from. We traveled to Ndola. By the way, it was my first time to be in Ndola. We went to a crime scene and the officer (police) showed use where the robbery happened from and later told us that
since we failed to locate Patrick Phiri, we were to appear before the court. We were committed to court
in Ndola and later appeared in court. The courts found us guilty and gave us the charge of aggravated robbery and murder. We were given a death penalty but later it was reduced to 25 years.”

Afunika says they have no hard feelings against Phiri and advise people to be careful when buying.

“We have no any hard-feelings on him. If God allows and we happen to be out of here alive, we would love to meet him and just advise him to stop his behavior. We would tell him to turn to God and seek his forgiveness. Otherwise, jail has taught us to be forgiving and so we
would not think of revenging,” says Afunika.

“I would like to advise people out there that they should not buy items from friends or people without finding out how it was acquired. You may end up buying a stolen item like we did.”

Afunika and Banda’s jail term comes to an end in 2024.