MDC Inmates relive 9 months in hell

One of the lawyers representing the 29 MDC members who are facing charges of murdering a police officer in Glen View, Harare last May has described the release on bail of seven of the accused on Friday as “A long walk and protracted battle.”

The seven were released yesterday after being granted bail at the Supreme Court by Deputy Justice Luke Malaba. For nine months, Glen View councillor, Tungamirai Madzokera, Lazarus and Stanford Maengahama, Stanford Mangwiro, Phineas Nhatarikwa,Rebecca Mafikeni and Yvonne Musarurwa were locked up in remand prison as they were denied bail several times at the High Court as the State said they were a flight risk.

During their arrests most of the accused were severely assaulted by the police while in custody. The police officers who have been fingered in the assaults are; Chrispen Makedenge, the Officer Commanding Harare Law and Order Section, Detective chief Inspector Ntini, Detective Inspector Dowa, Dectective Inspector Murira from Harare Central Police Station, one Justin, Makombe, and one nicknamed Harare from the condemned Matapi Police Station in Mbare.

However, the conditions were very harsh for the two female inmates, Musarurwa, 25, and Mafikeni, 27 who were at Chikurubi Maximum Prison. After being denied bail at the High Court, the two were on June 29 removed from the female section of Chikurubi Maximum Prison to the male section where convicted prisoners stay.

“The conditions were harsh and terrible we were staying in cells that had raw sewage passing through,” said Mafikeni.

“We were allowed only 20 minutes a day to do laundry, bathing and exercises. The conditions were just inhumane. We had to use bare hands to remove the sewage from our cells as the prison warders could not provide gloves for them,” added Musarurwa. “If we did not do this we could not eat or even stay in the cells as they had a terrible stench,” she said.

The cells were constructed during the Rhodesian era and nothing has been done to improve on them. During the routine remand at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts in January this year, the magistrate ordered the State to urgently investigate the inhumane and degrading conditions that the seven MDC activists were living under at the Harare Remand and Chikurubi Maximum prisons.

This was after one of their lawyers, Charles Kwaramba had successfully petitioned the court over the inhumane living conditions of the inmates. It was revealed during the remand hearing that Councillor Madzokere was in December last year severely assaulted by a prison guard only identified as Dune and needed urgent prison medical attention but had not received any treatment until his release on Monday in violation of the Prison Act.

During the assault of the councillor, prison guard Dune threw him three times against the wall exacerbating injuries to his right hand which the police broke during his arrest in May Last year. After filing of the complaints by kwaramba in January, the magistrate immediately ordered the State to investigate the claims. According to Musarurwa and Mafikeni the conditions became a bit better.

“We were then allowed to spend most of the time outside the cells although at first they did not allow the two of us to talk to each other but we resisted this,” said Mafikeni.

The two said their removal from the female section to the male section where convicted hardcore criminals stay was nothing but political. “The Officer in Charge of the complex, Imelda Chifodya told us that we had to move since as MDC activists we would influence other inmates to join the MDC,” said Musarurwa.

“However, while in custody, we understood that as an MDC member the State security agents will always come after you even when you haven’t done anything wrong and this gave us strength. Our arrests were nothing but signs of a desperate Zanu PF regime which knows that real change is around the corner,” she said.

The State has set 12 March will be the trial date. But for the two activists they are ready for the day. “We are not afraid. We want the justice to be delivered. We know we are innocent. As you know that; ‘justice delayed is justice denied,” they said.

The two women were shocked at how the police have top of the range vehicles and manpower at their disposal to arrest MDC members but fail to carry out normal police duties citing lack of vehicles. “On our arrest, the police had at their disposal scores of vehicles as they went around Harare arresting MDC members.

However, we were shocked to hear while we were in remand prison that they did not have a single vehicle or police officer to get to Beatrice in time when General Solomon Mujuru died in an inferno,” said Musarurwa.

The two MDC activists called for an urgent intervention in the living conditions of inmates at Chikurubi.“For the women, they have no food, their children are surviving on a single meal of porridge a day while the women have no sanitary pads,” said Mafikeni.

The story of the assaults was the same for the other male inmates. Mangwiro, 31, had two front teeth removed after he was assaulted by police officers from Glen Norah Police Station who arrested him at his workplace in Glen View.

“Besides losing my teeth, my sight is now bad. I managed to convince the prison authorities to take me to Parirenyatwa Hospital last month. However, at the hospital the doctors said I should pay US$5 which I did not have as I was in prison,” he said.

For Lazarus Maengahama, 42, the nine month incarceration were a nightmare as he had no idea what was going on since he had returned home to see his family from his workplace outside Zimbabwe.

Nhatarikwa, 46, said he was assaulted with his hands in cuffs while in police custody so much that for the next four days he was urinating blood after his testicles had been smashed. “I didn’t get proper treatment for my condition in prison,” said Nhatarikwa.

Meanwhile, three other MDC activists are still in remand prison facing the same charges. They are the MDC National Youth Assembly chairperson, Solomon Madzore, Jefias Moyo and Paul Rukanda.

On Monday, Madzore filed a notice of appeal against the refusal to grant him bail by the High Court Judge, Justice Hlekani Mwayera.

In his application, which was granted after Justice Mwayera granted them leave to appeal, Madzore argued that the judge had erred in vetoing the youth leader’s first bail bid last year. “The court-a-quo grossly misdirected itself by making findings which were not supported by the facts and evidence placed before the court,” reads part of the application.

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