HARARE - Prison accused of masterminding the food riots at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison that left five inmates dead yesterday claimed that they have been thrown into solitary confinement and denied basic sanitary facilities.
The nine, Robert Gumbura, 59, Blessing Chiduke, 25, Luckmore Matambanadzo, 39, Luck Mhungu, 38, Taurai Dodzo, 47, Thomas Chacha, 37, Thulani Chizema, 32, Jacob Sibanda, 28, and Elijah Vhumbunu, 38, are being charged with attempting to escape from lawful custody, incitement in aggravating circumstances in relation to malicious damage to property and incitement to assault or resist a peace officer.
Gumbura was represented by Tapson Dzvetero while his co-accused are represented by Tawanda Hofisi from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Hofisi made the application for the prisoners to be allowed access to sanitary facilities on behalf of all nine.
“The accused persons are in solitary confinement,” Hofisi said. “They have been put into FB1 Hall and are not permitted to wear shoes.
“They are allowed to go into the sunshine for 15 minutes and it is dehumanising and degrading, and the State ought to explain why the accused persons, who are still presumed innocent, are being punished this way.”
Magistrate Tendai Mahwe also heard that the prisoners were being denied food brought by their relatives and friends.
“The Supreme Court has indicated that prison authorities are entitled not to arbitrarily deny prisoners food that would have been brought from outside,” Hofisi said.
Prosecutor Michael Reza said the issues raised by the prisoners were administrative matters for the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and it’s not the responsibility of the court.
“…the accused persons are trying to clothe the court with powers it does not have,” Reza said. “They want the State to take over ZPCS’s administration.”
The magistrate ordered ZPCS to ensure supply of sanitary facilities but said he did not have the discretion to direct ZPCS over administrative issues.