Zimbabwean freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono has expressed concern over the deplorable state of local prisons.
He spent over a month in prison after being arrested and charged with inciting public violence after he used social media to support anti-corruption protests that were being organised by Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume for 31 July.
The award-winning journalist and filmmaker criticised the justice system in the country saying individuals who would not have been convicted of any crime should not be sent to Chikurubi Maximum prison where he, Job Sikhala and Ngarivhume were housed.
Speaking on Sikhala who was still in prison when he wrote the article, the CNN Africa Journalist of the year said:
His prison cell is meant to house ONLY 16 prison inmates, but like all other prison cells at Chikuribi prison, it is packed with 42 prisoners, and it only has one toilet with NO running water for those 42 men.
At times the prison cell can have more prisoners, I know so because I shared the same cell with Job Sikhala.
At one point the prison officials wanted to bring more inmates with mental disorders so that we would end up around 75 for that night in a cell designed for only 16 prisoners!
He also said prisoners are kept in cells for 17 hours daily, starting from 1500 hours, adding that “if you fall sick during those 17 hours, you won’t get any practical medical help at all.”
Other points he raised:
Sub-standard meals (cooked Sadza and boiled beans; badly cooked Sadza with boiled cabbages).
Toilets are are not enough (only 2 for 500 inmates).
Risk of contracting Coronavirus is high (no soap, no running water)
Chikurubi is meant to house 1360 prisoners, today it houses over 2500 prisoners.
He was imprisoned at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison without trial after exposing massive Covid-19 looting scandals that included President Mnangagwa’s allies.
The corruption exposures resulted in the former health minister Obadiah Moyo being fired.
Chin’ono is a Harvard University Nieman Journalism Fellow and a University of Oxford Africa Leadership Fellow.