Condemned Zimbabwe prison cells under scrutiny

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Regional magistrate Morgan Nemadire, prosecutor Michael Reza and defence lawyer Charles Warara are expected to visit Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison today (Tuesday) to inspect the cells which inmates allege are unfit for human habitation.

This follows an application by remand prisoners Albert Mugove Matapo and Lucky Mhungu through their lawyer Warara.

Matapo and Mhungu are in custody for alleged treason and armed robbery charges respectively and are jointly charged with Silas Sarezi Shonhiwa, Phillip Chivhurunge, Ruperts Chimanga and Bigknows Wairesi in another matter where they allegedly attempted to break out of jail last year.

The two made an application for referral of the case to the Supreme Court citing violation of constitutional rights but Reza opposed it.

Matapo and Mhungu allege the State was violating Section 15(1) and 18 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that deals with protection against inhuman treatment.

Warara complained that the prison cells where Matapo was being kept were condemned by the Supreme Court, but the prison authorities were using them specifically to punish his client.

Warara made the application in terms of Section 24 of the Constitution.

Warara said he also wanted the Supreme Court to determine whether it was constitutional for any accused person to appear before a magistrate wearing labelled clothes and shackled in leg-irons.

He told the court that Matapo had been subjected to conditions akin to punishment without trial since his arrest four years ago.

Warara said Matapo was removed from a normal prison cell and taken to a cell called FB1 where the conditions are that no natural light penetrates the cell.

He also told the court that in the absence of electric lights, Matapo spent 24 hours in darkness.