Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

A call for the condemnation of the violation of the human rights of prisoners by the Zimbabwe regime

18 May 2021 at 14:20hrs | Views
Greetings to all!

A few days ago, members of the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) were released on bail from incarceration at Zimbabwe's notorious Khami and Mlondolozi prisons. No sooner had they been released than they described the horrible inhuman conditions that they experienced in Zimbabwe's prisons of hell.

They described a litany of inhuman conditions of squalor which were not befitting any species from the animal kingdom, let alone human beings. These conditions ranged from the food that they were served with which was not even fit for rats, to the torture involving beatings and humiliation. They were compelled at the pain of extinction to eat rotten beans served with maggots, millipede (amtshongololo) and scraps of metal. This food also contained cat hairs as well as possibly donkey meat.

But this humiliation did not end with being served with maggots and millipedes. They were also compelled while incarcerated at those notorious prisons, in their crowded cells to relieve themselves in front of fellow prisoners, and thereafter, they had to sleep next to their human waste. As if this humiliation was not enough, they were further denied medical treatment. It is important to underscore that these humiliating and degrading conditions in Zimbabwe prisons are not new but have been a way of life of prisoners since 1980. I also remember being subjected to similar conditions at Stops Camp at the height of the Gukurahundi genocide in 1983, when we were served food from buckets which our jailers used to bath and shave from. During that time, we would be chained to some metal frames outside the overflowing prison cells and forced to eat and sleep on top of overflowing sewage.

What is important to underline herein, is that the significant difference between being incarcerated in these inhuman notorious Zimbabwe prisons and being kept in the larger occupied prison of Mthwakazi is that those incarcerated no longer have basic liberties as the rest of the population. Clearly, therefore, Zimbabwe as an occupying power in Mthwakazi has responsibilities towards observing the human rights of its prisoners. The Zimbabwe regime has responsibilities under international law and several regional, and domestic legal instruments which extend to granting its prisoners the right to a speedy trial, freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  Prisoners also have the right to equality before the law.

It is important to take a look at some of the following legal instruments and covenants regarding the human rights of its prisoners, some of which Zimbabwe is a signatory to:

 - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
 - United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR)
 - Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR),
 - European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),
 - Convention against Torture, Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT),
 - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ((ICESCR),
 - Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
 - African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)
 -  Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa ((ACRWC),
 - African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and
 - Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Over and above these instruments, Zimbabwe's own Constitution and laws require it to observe the human rights of prisoners. These rights include the right to adequate and safe food, right to sleep, right to dignity, right to be provided with clean water, right to healthy prison conditions with proper ablution facilities, right to adequate clothing and the right to adequate bedding.

There can be no question that the prison system in Zimbabwe is a product of European colonial rule. Yet even Smith's Rhodesia had a far much better record on treating its prisoners. As somebody who grew up having a father incarcerated by the Rhodesian regime, I can attest to the fact that even at Wha-Wha prison in Gwelo during that time, prisoners were accorded basic human rights, and these rights were even far much better at Gonakudzingwa where detainees could hunt and relatives of those incarcerated there could visit on school holidays. There was no question that prisoners could be fed with rotten food and donkey meat.

The Zimbabwe regime fails dismally even when compared with present-day South Africa. There, the inherent dignity of prisoners is recognized, and all prisoners are valued as human beings and have access to safe and adequate food and clean water; and general hygienic conditions throughout all the Department of Correctional Services facilities. They also have access to libraries within the prisons which must be used by all categories of prisoners. Like Zimbabwe, the South African prison system was established by colonialists and was therefore linked to repressive  instruments of colonial and apartheid rule, yet today, it has been overhauled to promote the human and civil rights of accused persons, serving prisoners, ex-prisoners and their next of kin.

Even in wartime, prisoners of war are protected by various domestic, regional, and international covenants. As somebody who was once incarcerated at Luanda's Casa de Recuperação Prisao (House of Recovery Prison) in Angola, I witnessed this firsthand whereby prisoners, who were accused of seeking to overthrow Angola's President Augostino Neto, were treated with utmost dignity and respect. They literally had access to most things, including watching television at that prison, which enabled us to watch live news, including the developments regarding proceedings at Lancaster House talks in 1979.

As I conclude, it is important that all the people of Mthwakazi who are presently incarcerated in their larger prison of their own country, Mthwakazi, condemn with the contempt it deserves the degrading and humiliating conditions of all those incarcerated by the ZANU-PF regime and its Shona hegemony apparatus in the various prisons scattered throughout Mthwakazi. This is important, because each and every one of us, the people of Mthwakazi, are likely to be exposed to that selective individual or group humiliation simply for wanting to be free from the chains of Shona hegemony and ZANU-PF rule.

I thank you!

Churchill Mpiyesizwe Guduza

Source - Churchill Mpiyesizwe Guduza
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.