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Damascus moment as convict becomes pastor while doing time

Ex-convict Edmose Hadebe
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TODAY he is a respected man of God and he makes no secret of his chequered past.

Ex-convict Edmose Hadebe (54), who was sentenced in 1991 to face the hangman’s noose before his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for murdering a fellow imbiber during a beer drink at Big Bhawa in Makokoba suburb in Bulawayo, became a pastor when he was set free in 2014.

Pastor Hadebe, who was arrested when he was 25 years, openly shared his stories and struggles with B-Metro, saying following his release after spending 26 years in prison, he left everything behind in prison and took with him a burning faith in God.

He said while in prison one day he got on his knees and asked Jesus to forgive him for his sins and fix his life. And that is when he decided to enroll for a Diploma in Theology as he knew God was already preparing him to spread His Word to both inmates and people outside prison. He is now a pastor at Praise and Worship Centre’s Mthombothemba branch, which covers Waterford suburb and How Mine area on the outskirts of Bulawayo.

A B-Metro news crew visited him at his home in Riverside suburb, where he exclusively narrated how God transformed his life during his 26-year stint in prison. He said he spent most of that time reading the Bible and studying the Bible with as many as 50 inmates, many of whom became Christians.

It came to light that before he served time for murder, Pastor Hadebe was a member of the Zimbabwe National Army and with his accomplices, during their drinking sprees, they abused the name of the armed forces by beating up people at Big Bhawa in Makokoba.

“Before I got arrested and served time for murder, I was a member of the Zimbabwe National Army and I was stationed at One Brigade (now Khumalo Barracks). With my friends, we loved to spend most of our time drinking beer at Big Bhawa in Makokoba.

“We abused our authority when we formed a group called ‘The Famous Three’ and it was notorious for assaulting people at this drinking spot,” he said.

He said it was rare for them to leave the drinking spot in question without picking a fight as they believed they were superior and stronger than their civilian counterparts.

“It was, however, unfortunate that one day we had a misunderstanding with another imbiber, who was also a friend of ours and at the height of the altercation we stabbed him several times before he fell on the ground.

When we realised that he was seriously injured we disappeared from the scene,” he reflects soberly. Pastor Hadebe said when news filtered the following day that that the person they had stabbed had died, it affected him since the fight had been triggered by a minor issue that they could have resolved amicably.

“The police hunted us down and I was the last person to be picked up. The matter was later referred to court. I languished in remand prison for more than a year before my imprisonment in 1991.

“I never thought the judge was going to be very hard on me as the murder was not an intentional killing. After a short stint in jail and while waiting for my turn to be hanged that is when I decided to repent and accept Jesus as my personal Saviour. For the three years I had been on death row I was praying to God everyday asking for mercy and protection. My prayers were answered when the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment,” he said.

He said that is when he realised that God had bigger plans for him.

The Damascus moment

Pastor Hadebe said when he was transferred from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare to Khami Remand Prison in Bulawayo, he met Dr Trust Sinjoki, general overseer of Praise and Worship Centre in Bulawayo and also the patron of Prison to Praise.

“While I was in prison, it was like Dr Sinjoki had adopted me to be his son as he started supplying me with stationery and books as I was now doing my Ordinary Level. With his support I managed to pass seven subjects and these are Ndebele, English, and Commerce, Accounts, Bible studies, History and Business Studies.”

He added: “That is when I decided to pursue a diploma in Theology. This idea was pushed by the life I was experiencing in prison. I have always kept positive and that’s how I keep going.”

Pastor Hadebe said with the support of Dr Sinjoki they managed to launch Prison to Praise, a programme to educate and enlighten inmates on the goodness of accepting Jesus as their Saviour.

“Under Prison to Praise we reached out to ex-inmates and those who are still serving and as we speak more than 10 pastors were ordained under this programme,” he said.

Hadebe said in 2014 he was part of prisoners who benefited under the Presidential Amnesty and this gave him an opportunity to re-unite with his family and preach the word of God.

“It was one of my prayers to find my parents still alive and as per my requests I found them still living. Upon my release from prison, I was given an exceptional reception by my church and it also supported my wedding. With the confidence they invested in me I was given a branch that I am currently leading.”

He appreciated the support he got from his family for nearly three decades while in prison cells. He said he got through all of these years behind bars by keeping the faith he’d be free one day. As advice to other ex-convicts, Pastor Hadebe said they should pray and work hard to ward off the possibility of them going back to jail. – B-Metro