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Human rights abuses in Zimbabwe prisons exposed
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
November 30, 2012

It was a heart rendering night that left several reaching for their tissues as three political prisoners shared their chilling experience at a talk show convened by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition at the Book Café entitled "Memoirs of Political Prisoners: Victims or Victors" on November 28, 2012

The panelists included President of the MDC-T Youth Assembly, Solomon Madzore, ZimRights Programme Manager, Cynthia Manjoro and ZINASU President, Pride Mukono. The talk show was hosted by Chairperson of ZIMCODD and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Office Board Member, Mr Joy Mabenge.

Solomon Madzore and Cynthia Manjoro are part of the 29 Glenview residents who are being charged with the murder of Inspector Petros Mutedza whereas Pride Mukono is a student activist who was incarcerated for demanding education freedom. The three activists are out on bail and their cases are currently before courts.

Their memoirs unveiled seemingly similar experiences as they expose gross human rights abuses in Zimbabwe Prisons.

"I hope this will be a story which will stop others from experiencing what went through. Prison was the most painful experience I have ever gone through it was worse than death, for in death you fell nothing, but in this case it is like continuos preparation for a death that never comes . For 405 days I was reduced to nothing, being known by just a number, "said Madzore.

"For 2 months in 2011 I was known as 327/11 and in 2012 145/12.1 was put in solitary confinement at Chikurubi maximum prison, it was the most traumatising experience I have ever had. I withdrew from everything me getting out of blankets only for food and visitors. I feared for my 2 year old who I left at home . . will he be ok? Does anyone know what to do if he gets sick?" added Manjoro.

The three narrated the appalling state of prisons and conditions including absence of good hygienic practices like proper toilets in some of the prison rooms and the sanitizing of leg irons before use which put prisoners at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The President of Zinasu, Pride Mkono, expressed the need to educate the prison guards and the prisoners on their rights.

"There is need to sensitize prisoners on their rights as human beings so as to avoid the abuse of their rights whilst in prison. There is also need to educate prison offices on how to treat prisoners through sensitizing them that prisons are correctional, rehabilitation centers not centers for torturing and destroying human life" said Mukono.

Mr Mukono described how three of his fellow inmates at Hwahwa Prison died after eating possibly poisonous frogs out of hunger. He added that the food offered in prison regularly is poorly prepared spinach or cabbage and sadza. He also pointed out how the three prisoners were pronounced dead with no proper investigation to ascertain the cause of death.

Manjoro exposed how women's rights were violated at Chikurubi Maximum Prison where some cells occupied by up to 10 inmates had no toilets and the inmates where instead given cut 2l "Mazoe" plastic bottles each to relieve themselves in.

"In the case of one having diarrhea then a plastic bag was provided," Manjoro said. This system exposed other cell inmates to contaminable diseases that can be prevented easily.

She also explained how Chikurubi Maximum Prison Female Section had no service for those who want to pursue their studies. She shared how on her spare time she would teach other inmates who were doing their 'O' levels and one who was as far behind as grade 7. She added that there was little time for studies as most of the time was spent working in the garden.

The President of the MDC-T Youth Assembly, Solomon Madzore reiterated the need to sensitize the prison wards on human rights and Mr Mabenge concluded the talk show by challenging political players, policy makers and the Civil Society to fully acknowledge the need to address the abuse of human rights by state institutions like prisons.

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