Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) leader Jenni Williams, who has been arrested 39 times for her activism, has slammed Zimbabwe’s prisons describing them as places of “slow death” due to alleged prevailing health hazards and ill-treatment of inmates by wardens.
In a statement released on Saturday as a reflection of her 39th arrest, Williams said Zimbabwe’s prisons were not serving the correct purpose.
“A prison is supposed to be a place for correction and reform, but Zimbabwe’s prisons appear to be places of slow death, where one’s dignity and self-esteem are stripped,” she said.
“I have seen none of the correction and reform except forced labour or nonsensical things like the daily watering down to clean the 12×25-metre concrete yard.
“Life in Zimbabwe’s prisons is dreary, many nights spent on hard floors, dirty blankets, stinking cells, long hours (16 hours) of lock down in small overcrowded cells can surely drive one up the wall. I slept next to murderers, car jackers, thieves, fraudsters, and prostitutes. I shared in the battle to eke out some form of dignity for oneself and avoid being harassed or beaten or tortured by prison guards.”
Williams condemned the scarcity of clean water as well as the conduct of prison guards, whom she accused of harassing, beating and torturing inmates at the prisons to the extent of making them hardened criminals instead of reforming them.
“There were no showering and bathing facilities in ‘Hotel’ Central Police Station . . . Instead of prisoners coming out as reformed members of society, they re-enter society as hardened criminals with little hope of being reformed,” she said.
However, Williams said jail conditions had now improved compared to 2008.
“Prisons were hell as there was such widespread hunger and skeletons habited most of Zimbabwe’s jails. Things have improved somehow in terms of supply of food in Mlondolozi (in Bulawayo), but I am afraid to say the food is badly cooked and hungry eyes tell the stomach that it cannot finish the meal,” she said.
Williams’ last arrest was on World Peace Day where she spent two days in “horrific conditions” at Bulawayo Central Police Station and then 10 days at Mlondolozi female prison in Khami complex bringing a total of 73 days of her life spent in jails.
Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwe Prison Services were fruitless on Monday.