- “There is no medication in there for those showing symptoms. Those who show symptoms such as sore throats are given warm water to drink and that is it..."
“CHIKURUBI Prison is like a concentration camp,” said Hopewell Chin’ono, a prominent journalist who was detained after expressing support for the foiled 31st July anti-government demonstrations.
He was also released on bail from Chikurubi in early September.
“Prison conditions were horrible and I think they generally reflect the state of affairs in Zimbabwe,” Chin’ono said, raising alarm over the lack of safeguards against the coronavirus and warning that COVID-19 is a real threat for detainees in tight spaces.
“Inmates don’t have basic things like soap and running water in cells,” he added. “Prisons are failing to provide basic things like food. Prisoners eat only sadza and cabbages and beans. In the morning they are fed porridge that has no sugar. For me, this is a reflection of the corruption in the government system.”
Chin’ono said the situation has been worsened by restrictions imposed by prison authorities to curb COVID-19. Under the new rules, relatives of inmates can no longer make visits and deliver essentials such as food and medication.
“There is no medication in there for those showing symptoms. Those who show symptoms such as sore throats are given warm water to drink and that is it.
“The prisoners don’t have masks. Most are given masks when they are set to appear in court to conform with the law,” he added.
Norman Matara, secretary-general for the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said prisons are “potential COVID-19 time bombs, by their nature”.
“But we don’t have specific information at the moment on the state of affairs regarding the COVID-19 situation.”
He said his group was working with authorities and would provide educational and material support once they have assessed their needs.
Last month, ZPCS Assistant Commissioner Mzila Moyo said his service had introduced various measures at all prisons in Bulawayo to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
COVID-19 “knows no boundaries, and as Bulawayo Metropolitan Province we have a number of programmes that we have put in place to curtail the spread of the virus. Social distancing, mask-wearing are a must in the prisons in the whole province”, he said.
“Our health teams are moving around educating the inmates and officers on preventive measures. In each and every prison, we have sanitisers and foot baths at all points of entry.”