The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has refuted suggestions that freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and leader of Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) Jacob Ngarivhume are being treated unfairly at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
The duo was denied bail by High Court judge Justice Chitapi last week and promptly sent to Chikurubi, where hardcore criminals are detained.
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ZPCS spokesperson Supt Meya Khanyezi said that they have ceased in-person visiting of prisoners for the safety of staff, prisoners and the public in light of the coronavirus crisis. Said Kanyezi:
This was not a decision we arrived at lightly, as we understand and recognise the importance of family contact with the prison population.
Our primary concern has to be public safety and reducing the number of people who enter our facilities is a key factor in limiting the potential spread of this illness into our prisoner population.
The department will continue to monitor the situation to determine when visits will be restored.
Lawyers representing Chin’ono and Ngarivhume, Beatrice Mtetwa and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), revealed that the two were strip-searched and shackled in leg irons and eventually moved at night to Chikurubi Maximum Prison without formal communication to their legal practitioners beforehand.
Among other things, Chin’ono and Ngarivhume were left with no access to food as they do not eat sadza for medical reasons but they were advised that ZPCS only serves sadza in prison.