‘Prisoners stay naked in condemned cells’

Albert Mugove Matapo, a remand prison inmate facing treason charges and another one for allegedly attempting a jailbreak with six other prisoners, told the court this week he was kept naked for a month, in darkness and in leg-irons.

This came out in an application for referral of the case to the Supreme Court made by the prisoners’ lawyers Charles Warara and Gift Nyandoro before regional magistrate Morgan Nemadire.

The inmates cited violation of their constitutional rights.

Matapo, Silas Sarezi Shonhiwa, Phillip Chivhurunge, Ruperts Chimanga, Luck Mhungu and Bigknows Wairesi allege the state violated Section 15(1) and 18 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that deals with protection against inhuman treatment.

Warara said he also wanted the Supreme Court to determine whether it was constitutional for accused persons to appear in court wearing labelled clothes and standing trial while in leg-irons.

Warara submitted that at one point, one of his clients, Matapo, was made to spend a month naked in a cell with only two blankets.

The lawyer claimed his clients were subjected to punishment without trial since their arrest four years ago.

“My client (Matapo) was removed from a normal prison cell and taken to a cell called FB1 where conditions are that no natural light gets into the cell and, in the absence of electric lights, my client spends 24 hours in darkness,” Warara said.

The lawyers also reminded the court that the FB1 prison cells were condemned by the Supreme Court and said prison authorities had reopened the condemned cells, which had been closed, specifically to accommodate their clients.

“It is torture to live in that cell where the toilet has no flashing system,” Warara said. “My client only gets water to flush the toilet at the discretion of the prison officers. Matapo has been living under such conditions for the past 11 months.”

He also said Matapo and his co-accused were allowed to leave their cells for just 30 minutes a day and spent twenty-three-and-a-half hours locked in cells measuring, 4,5 metres by 1,5 metres.

Prosecutor Michael Razor is expected to respond to the allegations and an application by Warara on Friday.

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