Prison experience haunts MDC-T activists

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The two female MDC-T activists incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum Prison since June last year for allegedly participating in the murder of Police Inspector Petros Mutedza described life in solitary confinement at the hands of hostile prison guards as hell on earth.

From living in cells with free-flowing raw sewage, to an unfriendly environment in the midst of hardcore criminals, the recently released pair recounted their horror during their nine-month incarceration.

Yvonne Musarurwa and Rebecca Mafikeni were part of the MDC-T youths arrested in a crackdown by police on the party youths, fingered in the murder of Mutedza in Glen View last year.

In an interview with NewsDay, the two said what started as a mere tour of the suburb by MDC-T youths became the beginning of hell, especially as they had never tasted life in police cells, let alone Chikurubi Maximum Prisons solitary confinement section.

We spent six months using our bare hands to remove the sewage from our rooms, said Musarurwa. Sewerage was flowing freely in our cells and the stench was unbearable. We would tell the prison officers about it, but they would tell us the system was not repairable and we were to get accustomed to it.

After we were remanded in custody we were taken to the female prison for a month where we lived with other women. Those were better days in the cells. Little did we know the worst was yet to come, said Musarurwa.

For alleged political reasons, the two said they were put into solitary confinement. On June 29 we were removed from the female prison after they told us that we could not mix with other inmates. That is when we went into hell.

We were thrown into very harsh conditions. We only had 20 minutes to socialise, bathe and see sunlight. Those were really harsh conditions and we spent around seven months under such conditions, said Mafikeni.

The two said initially they were not allowed to have visitors and had only one meal a day instead of three. We were always inside, visits were restricted, there were sanctions on food the list of mistreatments is endless.

A number of our relatives were turned away and up to mid-December when our relatives complained we were only allowed one visitor a day. It was rather difficult for us women as we needed to know how our families were doing back home.

The two said they were beaten up upon arrest and they did not receive treatment for injuries incurred. They attributed their survival to God saying they prayed many times while in custody. They said they had come back from jail more focused and dedicated to the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.

Most importantly, they said, their faith in God had strengthened them from the traumatic experience behind bars. My parents know that I dedicated myself to MDC-T and they know that I abide by our president Morgan Tsvangirai until democracy prevails, said Musarurwa as a parting shot.

The male activists were not spared either as they said they were jailed in horrible conditions. Lazarus Maengahama said the nine months incarceration was a nightmare as he had no idea what was going on when he was arrested after he had returned home to see his family from his workplace outside Zimbabwe.

Phineas Nhatarikwa said he was assaulted with his hands in cuffs while in police custody and was urinating blood after his testicles had been smashed and did not get proper treatment.

The activists were granted bail at the Supreme Court by Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba last week on Friday and subsequently released on Monday this week.