BY VENERANDA LANGA
PARLIAMENT has said conditions in the police holding cells are inhumane, conceding the rights of arrested people were being breached.
This was brought into light by the Senate Thematic Committee on Human Rights in its recent report following visits to Featherstone, Ngundu, Beitbridge, Gwanda
and Plumtree police stations and border posts.
The committee members said they had received a tip-off from human rights activists that the conditions at the police holding cells were inhumane.
The report on the conditions of the holding cells is also currently under debate in the Senate.
At Harare Police Station, the senators said they observed that the holding area was overcrowded.
“The holding area was approximately 2,5 metres by three metres, but accommodated 21 accused persons and some of the inmates had not been fed from the previous
day and were still being detained in the holding area while others complained that they had their admissions of guilty fines ready, but had not been attended
to,” the report read.
A woman interviewed by the committee in the cells told senators that when she was arrested, she was never asked to provide details of her next of kin so that
they would be informed to take care of her children.
The committee said the cells were in a dilapidated state, with dirty blankets that were not suitable for human use, as well as poor lighting at night.
“The committee was disgusted by the pungent smell that came out of the cells because of the grim state of the ablution facilities, which was in violation of
the Constitution in respect to inhuman and degrading treatment.”
At Featherstone Police Station, the committee observed that the interviewing room for suspects had no benches or chairs.
“The holding cells infrastructure was constructed in 1962 and was very old and no longer fit for human habitation. The accused persons’ toilets within the
holding cells did not have a flushing system and so buckets were used to flush the human waste. The police officers washed the blankets, but they did not have
adequate protective clothing. Sanitary pads were also not provided for female accused and the detained persons bathed in the same room they slept in using
buckets,” the report said.
Ngundu Police Station was said to have been constructed in 1943 as a base for soldiers, and the police officers shared dilapidated blair toilets with
Gwanda was the only modern police station and was cleaned daily, but at Beitbridge Border Post the committee found that there were no facilities for people
The committee said prisoners were given three unbalanced meals with dried kapenta or beans as the only relish, and there were no special arrangements for
prisoners with allergies or health conditions.