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Tough life after Zambian prison – Capt Solo

Former prisoner Steven Lungu, the mastermind of the 1997 coup attempt, is slowly integrating into society. Mr Lungu who has branded himself “Evangelist Captain Steven Lungu’ shares his two month freedom after his release from prison.

Mr Lungu who laments being a destitute, said the biggest challenge for an ex-prisoner is acceptance and integration into society.

EMELDA MWITWA reports.

AFTER 13 years in prison, Mr Steven Lungu, alias Captain Solo is destitute. He has no home to go back to.

His wife died in 2001 while he was in prison. His three children are being kept by well-wishers and he is under the care of a pastor Kwacha Mvula who picked him up from Kabwe Maximum Prison when he was released by President Banda on humanitarian grounds on Tuesday, December 28, 2010.

Mr Lungu received a presidential pardon after 13 years imprisonment. On conviction, Mr Lungu was condemned to death with other renegade soldiers, who included the late Jack Chiti and recently pardoned Alfred Kamanga.

Then President Levy Mwanawasa had also exercised mercy on “Capt Solo” by commuting his death sentence to a 20-year jail term. Mr Lungu was convicted of treason for attempting to overthrow the Government of President Chiluba through a military coup-d’etat.

Mr Lungu said although he has walked back to freedom, he is economically bound. He depends on Pastor Mvula for shelter, food and clothing.

“I know the Lord will give me a job one day. If it is ministry (pastoral work), I will do it; what is better than doing the will of God,” he said.

Mr Lungu said he may also consider teaching because he was trained as a technologist at the Northern Technical College (NORTEC). He did his teaching practice at Lusaka Trades before joining the army.

In prison he was offering free tuition to younger inmates in mathematics and sciences. He said one of the people he taught did well in O Levels and later went to the university.

Mr Lungu laments that he is unable to support his children financially. He claims he has got “two first born children” who do not happen to be twins.

“I have two first born children… both were born in 1990. One was born from my late wife, while the other one is in Mkushi,” he said stressing his point.

One of them is Chibale, 20, a Grade 12 school leaver, who is unable to pursue tertiary education due to lack of sponsorship.

The other is Maria, also aged 20, who grew up with her mother in Mkushi. She is married there and has a son. She dropped out of school while her father, Mr Lungu, was in prison.

Charles, 19, his adopted son (nephew) has also completed school. The last born is Palaya, 15, doing Grade 11 at JM Academy in Lusaka.

Palaya has been adopted by a Colonel Kunda who started sponsoring the boy at school while he was keeping up with his late aunt.

Mr Lungu said Col Kunda adopted his son when his late sister was overwhelmed with responsibilities and therefore sought help from well-wishers.

He said initially, Col Kunda, an army officer had no idea that the boy was Capt Solo’s son.

Mr Lungu is grateful to the people that have helped him take care of his children since he was in prison, but his ego desires that he finds something to do to contribute in his own way.

Currently he is only undergoing a rehabilitation programme under Pastor Mvula that should help him re-integrate into society.

Under this programme, Pastor Mvula who started preaching to Mr Lungu while he was in prison, has enrolled him into a restoration programme under the Hope in Christ Prison Community services.

Mr Lungu has gone to different churches to share his story and preach the word of God.

Pastor Mvula, however, refuses to divulge details of his rehabilitation programme, saying he would speak at an appropriate time.

Mr Lungu said the challenge for most ex-prisoners is total rehabilitation and re-integration into family and society.

He appreciates the skills training programme given to inmates, but feels the correctional centres need to build the capacity of their rehabilitation programmes.

“This is the reason why some of the ex-prisoners go back to their vomit. When they come out of prison, they are discriminated against by society, the only people who accept them are those involved in dirty tricks,” Mr Lungu said.

He said with a comprehensive rehabilitation programme, added to the skills training given in prison, former prisoners would easily re-integrate into society.

Mr Lungu said the rehabilitation programme he is undergoing under the auspices of Hope in Christ Prison Community Services is helping him fit into society.

He said he has also received magnanimous support from the churches he visited. These include the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA), Bible Gospel Church in Africa, BIGOCA) and Fellowship Divine for Salvation.

Mr Lungu urged Government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Prisons, to assess inmates and identify areas where they need help for them to become productive members of society.

In a letter of March 9, 2011 to President Banda, Mr Lungu says he would like Government to consider allowing released prisoners go through the Hope in Christ Prison Community Services rehabilitation programme.

He said Pastor Mvula’s facility, where he has been since his release from prison, is healthy for preparing former prisoners for re-integration into society.

Mr Lungu wrote to the President, thanking him for releasing fellow treason convict, Alfred Kamanga, from prison.

Mr Kamanga, who was a staff sergeant in the Army, was released from prison on February 17, 2011.

In the same letter, Mr Lungu further appeals to the President to consider pardoning other prisoners on death row.

He has in mind a 16-year-old boy of the Copperbelt who has never seen his incarcerated father, Roy Fundulu.

Mr Lungu claims the boy is not allowed to visit his father in prison.

Soon after his release from prison, Mr Lungu asked for forgiveness from the people of Zambia and former President Chiluba for the crime he had committed.

“I don’t know how I can describe that (attempted coup) sir … irresponsible. Mr President am really, really sorry for what I did. It because I didn’t know God.

This time I have no excuse because I know God, he is supreme,” Mr Lungu said at Dr Chiluba’s residence.

Mr Kamanga, 54, has also thanked President Banda for pardoning him, eleven days before his official release date.

He said prison life was tough, but he survived 13 years by the grace of God.

Mr Kamanga said he survived because he accepted his situation and adjusted to prison life.

He learnt to make do with 450 grammes of food per day, and sometimes all the three meals were served at once.

Mr Kamanga said he learnt “survival skills” like keeping his food warm by covering a lunch box with a plastic bag and wrapping it in a blanket.

“The blanket is a proper food warmer, it used to keep the food warm until the next meal time,” Mr Lungu chipped in.

Mr Kamanga has re-united with his wife and children. His two daughters are married, while his two sons dropped out of school due lack of funds.

 

“Yes my wife and I are together. When I was released from prison she came to pick me up,” he said.

Mr Kamanga said his wife was a stronger person because her burden was heavier than his. He said he left her to fend for four children without any source of income.

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