Guilty at Law: Analysing Simon Chimbetu’s and Paul Matavire’s Memoirs from Prison




agency, dehumanisation, depersonalisation, law, prison, Zimbabwean music


A prison is limiting, dehumanising, isolating, stressful and dismembering. Such experiences are expressed through different sites of expression including but not limited to novels, poetry, autobiographies and even music. Zimbabwean musicians Simon Chimbetu and Paul Matavire are some of the artists who served jail terms having been found guilty at law and then decided to recount their experiences through music. Against that background, this article critically engages Simon Chimbetu’s and Paul Matavire’s music within the context of their attitude towards prison. Emerging in the exegesis of the songs is that in terms of attitude, Simon Chimbetu largely laments the horrendous experiences that involve entrapment, loss and angst, while Matavire deliberately mocks the prison itself to the extent that he is not as disillusioned as Chimbetu. He adopts an approach that helps him regain strength, confidence and agency in the midst of incarceration. It is the vision(s) of the artists that is of keen interest in this critical dialogue. It is apparent in Chimbetu’s lyricism that a prison is a dehumanising and depersonalising entity that generates pain, envy, grief, denial and in turn dislocates, disorients and decentres, while Matavire tends to mock his handlers in a subtle but powerful manner. He transcends victimhood and adopts a perspective in which the prison is viewed as a site of rehabilitation, reformation and human factor development. Our analysis is guided and oriented by the reformative theory of criminal justice.


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How to Cite

Tembo, Charles, Allan Maganga, and Shereck Mbwera. “Guilty at Law: Analysing Simon Chimbetu’s and Paul Matavire’s Memoirs from Prison”. Imbizo, 16 pages .



Received 2022-04-30
Accepted 2023-10-27
Published 2023-11-20