Matapo endures prison torture

An army captain remanded in custody over a shadowy plot to kill President Robert Mugabe is being slowly, quietly, methodically killed in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

Albert Matapo was put in a punishment cell for the fifth time in little more than two months. In total he spent more than a month of lock-up. Yet he is not a killer, a rapist, nor a strangler of children.

In 2007 Matapo and six other soldiers were arrested in connection with a plot to stage a coup to topple Mugabe and replace him with defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Matapo, together with Nyasha Zivuku, Oncemore Mudzurahona, Emmanuel Marara, Patson Mupfure, Shingirai Mutemachani and Rangarirai Maziofa, all deny the charge. They have been held at Chikurubi ever since.

Mnangagwa has since distanced himself from the group and described the allegations as "stupid".

Matapo was arrested first for convening an illegal meeting and then on a list of conspiracy charges in connection with a plot to kill the president.

In April this year, Matapo attempted to escape. Prison officer Donald Gwekwerere, who is currently on bail pending appeal, allegedly supplied Matapo and his co-accused with tools. They used a hacksaw to cut burglar bars securing the observation window to their cell, but were caught as they skipped the perimetre fence.

Their lawyer Charles Warara claim they tried to escape because the cells they were living in were condemned and they were being ill-treated.

Matapo says he has been humiliated and tortured – kept in a punishment isolation cell.

In late August, during a meeting with his lawyer, his cold hands were thin, almost childish. He kept rubbing them to warm them a little. He remains staunchly insubordinate – maintaining that he has not been convicted and is unlawfully held.

He wakes up for reveille, goes to a drill for only one hour but doesn't do the exercises, just stands. Prison officers have responded by subjecting him to extreme punishment, and his lawyer fears for his life.

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