Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) leader Paul Siwela on Wednesday described his 90-day stay on remand in Khami Prison as “hell”.
Siwela, who was detained in early March on a treason charge, told NewsDay that he spent the last three weeks of his stay at Khami Prison in solitary confinement after he was diagnosed with stress-induced high blood pressure.
The embattled leader of the Matabeleland-based separatist party walked to freedom last Friday after the Supreme Court upheld his $2 000 bail application.
“If there is a place called hell, they are referring to that kind of place (Khami Prison),” he said.
“People are locked up during the week at around three in the afternoon and 2pm during weekends and the doors are opened at 9am, meaning you spend 20 hours locked up,” said Siwela.
“In my case, the last three weeks I was in solitary confinement. They did not explain why, but I saw in my papers stated that I should go for isolation. If it is true that it was high blood pressure, it’s not contagious and I do not understand why I was put in isolation.”
Siwela said there was no water in the prison complex for the last three weeks of his stay and the diet was bad.
“In my case I was given water, but I am sure the majority of the inmates did not bathe those days and I do not know if there is water now,” said Siwela.
In isolation Siwela said he was put in a female cell and for the first time he was given a bed “though without sheets”.
“The majority of the hospital staff were friendly. There is no reading material like newspapers and I think Parliament should look at the Act that is being used in that prison because I think they are using the 1978 Act, so it should be outdated and not in sync with the present environment,” said the MLF leader.
Initially, Siwela said, he shared a “tiny” cell with two other inmates and they were given buckets to relieve themselves overnight and emptied them in the morning.
“If you go to the Trade Fair they (Zimbabwe Prison Services) give an impression that you are given a mattress, but it is not true. You have to lay the blankets to sleep on and there is no lighting in the cells. During my stay, it rained and water came in through the ventilation holes in the cell walls.”
He said he related well with fellow inmates and “there was an unusual jubilation from prisoners when they heard that I was being released”.