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2004 Rector's Arrest

And stay in Marondera Prison

Dear friends,

It seems sad that after 20 years of Headmastering I should have to sit down and explain the circumstances of my incarceration in the Marondera holding cells on Wednesday night and Thursday. It is usually at this stage in a Headmaster`s career that he expresses his ideas on matters such as; corporal punishment, smoking at school, drinking, drugs, positive re-enforcement etc etc. Well I live in Zimbabwe and sadly, for some time now `other issues` have taken up the time of Headmasters more than normal schoolmastering-if such a thing still exists.

I have two versions of what happened this week-the first the `facts`, without the human side, the second the `experience`, with all its humour, comradieship and coming-together.

At the end of last term I was called to Marondera Rural to face enquiries in a case of C/s 21 (1) (b) as read with section 4 (1) (2) of SI 28/A/03 of the Education Act chapter 24;04 `increase any fee or levy without approval of the Secretary of Education. I was required to sign a `Warned and Cautioned` Statement. I denied the charge as I am not the school`s Responsible Authority. The schools RA is the Executive Committee. Exco duly applies for permission from the Secretary to increase the fees, and had done so for the first term. I was also charged with accepting Forex. I denied that charge too.

During the holiday period we had worked on our application for a fee increase in the second term. It was submitted but returned and so - in order to ensure that we could start school as scheduled - we decided to comply with the Secretary`s Minute of 21st of April. We decided to start term using the figure of 2,1 - the last approved fee charge. from Dec 2003. We visited the local Ministry offices on Friday the 30th May and the Provincial Education Director stated that we could only charge 2,1; but that we could accept additional payments from parents who were prepared to make as `payments in advance`-receipted separately - if we did this we could open on Monday as planned.

He did ask me to redraft the application and to take it to him early on Monday for his approval. I was then to take it directly into the Head Office of the Min of Ed in Harare. This I did. On Monday I took the application to his office in Marondera and asked him if we were one of the schools that would be closed - The Herald, that morning stated that 39 schools would be closed but did not give the names. He said that the Peterhouse Group of Schools complied with the secretary`s requests and that we should not be affected. I went back to school - Housemaster Meeting, Staff-Meeting and just before Chapel, Jenny came to tell me that the Police had arrived and that we were CLOSED.

There was some confusion with PHG and SPV H- Graham phoned to say that the details there had said that he could open if he charged the level we agreed with the PED. I phoned PROPOL and they confirmed that the Peterhouse Group of schools were closed. As you can imagine some parents had returned their kids - chaos prevailed - they had to collect them. At 12.30 the PED phoned to say that the Application was approved and that I should collect it and take it to the Finance Director in Hre. He could not believe that we had been closed. I took the documents-that he had approved for our increase, to Ambassador House and pushed my way in to see the Director of Finance. The Director of Finance then showed me a letter of Approval for a figure of 3,3 for the first term-the letter was addressed to the PED but had never been sent! So, in fact, we could charge 3,3 and not 2,1 - the figure I was going to ask from parents.

The next day, Tuesday, we travelled into Harare for a combined Ruzawi/Peterhouse EXCO meeting. We resolved to do all we could to start as soon as possible. We were prepared to sign a letter stating that we would charge 3,3 - one third of what we had budgeted. On returning to school I phoned the Director of Finance, in Harare, to ask if we could open as we had complied with ALL demands. He said that the Secretary was considering our application and that I was to phone in the morning. On Wednesday I phoned the Director at 15 minute intervals throughout the day. Only late that afternoon did I get him and he stated that our application for the budgeted amount had been refused - we had to charge 3,3.

At 18.30 on Wednesday evening I was asked to phone Simon Hammond and Kiff Seager - Erith Harris, the Headmaster of Ruzawi had been collected from school and taken to the Police Station for 'questioning'. Smelling a rat - not many officers take their job seriously enough to do 'investigation' at night, I dressed sensibly and prepared for whatever might be in store for me. Graham Peebles, Springvale House Headmaster, was with me when the Police arrived just after 19.00 and we persuaded the Police to let him take me into the Station. At the Station it was obvious from the outset that investigations where not on the Agenda and I saw a piece of paper with the full names of the four Headmasters in the District-for `booking` purposes! JB Calderwood, ER Harris, J. Bradshaw - Head of Watershed College and Mrs G. Martin - Head of Lendy Park prep school. Graham and Geoff Nichols-Deputy head of Ruzawi tried to help but to no avail.

Gill Martin - a saint of a woman - arrived in the front of a pick-up with two male details 'for questioning'. We were both arrested and learnt that Erith was already in the cells. John Bradshaw was in SA having an eye operation. We had no recourse to lawyers, we had no say at all. We were allowed one top garment and one bottom garment of clothing and were marched off, in the dark, to the cells with several other prisoners. The ground was cold but the fact that you cannot wear shoes or socks is so degrading in itself! There were no light on the way to the cells -no bulbs, no torches. The detail could not, at first, open the main gate to the cells because of the dark! I asked if Gill could come into the cell that Erith and I would be in but there is a `woman`s cell`. At this stage the attitude and tone of the Police details was oppressive-they enjoyed what they were having to do. It was pitch black even though it was full moon and Gill was put into a cell with a young woman who was suspected of aiding thieves in a payroll robbery.

My cell door was opened and I met the handshake of Erith. His eyes had-in the hour he had been there -got used to the lack of light. He gave me my blankets-he had socks on, I didn`t!!!!! The smell was disgusting in the cell. It measured 1,75m by 2.5 with an area where a toilet pan is located. We got talking, and Gill and her cell mate started to sing--BEAUTIFULLY. The local shabeen -with the sound of music and drunks was drowned out when the ladies sang.

It was cold! Dreadful blankets-really dreadful, no mattresses and just a cement floor-it was going to be a long night. We heard our Governors arrive-and lawyer-from Harare but they were not given access to us and left frustrated, having to return to Harare.  At 23.00-the change in shift, we had to get out of our cell and line up on the cold grass for roll-call. Outside the cells there is an area of grass where you eat and exercise-when you are allowed out. Erith and I lined up behind 16 young black men. With the two ladies there were 20 in all in the cells. I suddenly thought that 16 in one cell and two in another didn`t balance and that 7 others would be put in our cell! Horrors! It didn`t happen and the next day when we were moved we realised that they were in a much bigger area than we were!

We didn`t sleep much, we joked and chatted until about 04.30 when Erith said that it should be time for the birds to wake. After a while we heard the first song --the squarked of a crow!! We had no watches, they had to be removed. It got colder, we knew that dawn was close.

At 05.45 members from Gatehouse arrived with food for us-Dr Kevin and Gill Martin started Gatehouse-a commune that caters for the needy-many years back and have done such wonderful work there. I did not want to eat for fear of having to go to the toilet!!!! I did asked that the toilet pans be flushed from outside-I had heard from David Kay that that was possible. The detail said that if the pans were blocked they would spill over on to the floor. After 15 minutes we were locked up again.

At 06.30 we were let out again, we had to line up to face a barrage of insults and jeers from CID and I presume CIO officers who wanted to see who they had in the cells. Each one of us, in turn, had to call out our name and the offence we had committed. Gill, on her turn, took a lot of abuse-she spoke of increasing fees to keep up with inflation and was told, in no uncertain terms that inflation was coming down--(the price of bread had just gone up 50% the day we were arrested)! I decided not to rise to the abuse of these officers and kept what I said to what I had to say!

It was back into the cells after numbering off yet again. At about 08.00 we were collected for fingerprinting. Friends had arrived at the exercise fence and sweets etc were passed through. Our Governors arrived - Simon Hammond- PH; Kiff Seager- Ruzawi and Dr Kevin Martin-Lendy Park. Arthur Mutsonziwa-our Lawyer and on the Board of PH and Ruzawi was negotiating out release with the authorities. Kiff said that we would be out shortly and our hopes were raised---thirty minutes later we were placed in the big cell and we learned that the Govenors were now being arrested!!

Dr Kevin Martin was `allowed` to go to his Surgery while we were locked up in the cell. Our Governors had suits on and looked very undignified without socks or tie or belts!

At 11.00 hrs we were paraded out again for roll-call. We were locked up again but I managed to get sweets down the front of my pants, a toilet-roll under my arm-pit - there is no paper in the cells- and a toothbrush in my pocket. Dr Kevin Martin joined us at about 12.00 - after seeing his patients. At 15.30 we were let out again for `lunch`. Arthur by this stage, after contacting virtually every influential person in the country - its amazing how many were in Board meetings and could not come to the phone - its also amazing how we, with all the contacts in the world could not budge - what happens to those who do not have contacts?

By 16.30 we were told that we were to be released. We had to sign a Bail certificate - there were none in Marondera - so we were delayed until about 17.30 - the forms had to be collected from Goromonzi, about 60kms away - before we could leave. We were let out on $100 000.00 bail and told to report the next day for Court.

On Friday we reported to the Charge-Office and made our way to court. Arthur was superb but the law was quite plainly tipped against us. We were allowed to go to the Lodge at lunch time as long as we were back at Court at 15.00. At 16.00 we left the Courts---PH court date 28th of July; Ruzawi 5th of August--I doubt that the Lendy Park case will even go to court.

I am ashamed at how the Martins were treated, they have done so much for the Marondera community over the past 27 years. Thankfully their Faith is strong! I then made my way to the PED to see if we could NOW open and after a call to the Secretary was told that The Peterhouse Group of schools could re-open on Sunday. What lengths must be taken to do something so normal in other country`s. Just a couple of days in the life of a Headmster in Zimbabwe!!

Those who know me know that I cannot type very well-I`m sorry that this is long-drawn out, excuse mistakes etc-I now prepare for the start of term

Thanks to those who have contacted us with messages of support-we really appreciate it.

Jon Calderwood
10 May 2004

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