MDC activists jailed for the murder of police inspector Petros Mutedza in Glen View in 2011, together with other inmates, are living in squalid and overcrowded conditions at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Addressing journalists outside the correctional facility yesterday, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said the activists, Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere, told him tales of horror in the prison.
“I have seen the prisoners of conscience, political prisoners. They are in good health. They are in high spirits. They are optimistic. They know that they are innocent, of course,” he said.
“We acknowledge that they still have an appeal process that has to be heard and we are going to expedite that the matter be heard. They told me that there are about 2 600 inmates. They are getting almost 10 000 litres of water per day. So, every inmate gets about four litres for drinking, bathing and washing clothes. So, it’s quite a dicey situation for all the inmates. They also told me, that there is a huge crack to the prison building, so their safety is compromised.”
Prison cells that are supposed to hold up to 12 prisoners are now home to 45 inmates, while power outages also blight the complex, leaving inmates drowning in darkness most of the time.
Chamisa said his party would continue to stalk the corridors of justice in an effort to get the two activists released, saying their conviction was political.
The two have, according to Chamisa, lodged an appeal against both conviction and sentence, but there have been delays by the courts to hear the appeals.
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Chamisa had to wait for hours outside the prison gates before he was finally cleared to visit the MDC activists as prison officers at the main gate made call after call, seeking the nod from their superiors to allow him passage. The MDC leader slammed the slow process to clear him, saying it was the height of “dictatorship and tyranny”.
“The unfortunate thing is I have had to come here and spend almost three hours waiting for a clearance. I understand that they were indicating that I had to get clearance,” he said.
“So, they had to inform their head office. It is undesirable and very unfortunate. I am a lawyer and I have rights as a lawyer to visit any client which I wish to visit. I am also a leader of a political party, a legitimate political party.
“So if I wish to visit any person I should also be allowed. I am not asking for any privilege. I am not asking for any special treatment. I am only asking for ordinary treatment to be able to have access. Now, when you have dictatorship around entry into a prison gate, there is no better dramatisation of undesirable circumstances of tyranny.”
Chamisa was later allowed to enter the prison complex with only his driver, while his security and aides were blocked.
The late Morgan Tsvangirai, before his death under the government of ousted former President Robert Mugabe, was barred twice as he made an effort to visit the MDC activists.