BY SILAS NKALA
SECESSIONIST group Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) has condemned the alleged inhuman treatment of its activists who were languishing in remand prison recently.
MLF’s remarks come after nine of its activists who were arrested for clashing with the police during a protest in Bulawayo spent over a month in remand prison despite having been granted bail.
The activists include MRP national league chairperson, Sibongile Banda, Busi Moyo, council of elders representative Tinos Nkomo, MRP youth chairperson Mongameli Mlotshwa, Livson Ncube, Maxwell Nkosi, Welcome Moyo, Nkosilathi Ncube and Ackim Ndebele.
Eight of the activists were recently granted bail of ZW$10 000 each, while one who had a previous conviction was ordered to pay ZW$20 000.
After their release recently, they exposed the unfair treatment in detention.
They claimed that conditions are squalid and not befitting any species from the animal kingdom, let alone human beings.
The group alleges that it was “served food not worth for humans; not even fit for rats and were tortured”.
MLF leader Churchill Guduza, who is based in South Africa, expressed concerns over ill-treatment of his members.
“They said the food also contained cat fur. They were also made to relieve themselves in front of fellow prisoners and had to sleep next to excreta,” he said.
Guduza said it was worrying that they were denied medical treatment.
“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,” Guduza said.
The MLF leader said the Zimbabwe government has responsibilities under international law and several regional, and domestic legal instruments to granting its prisoners the right to a speedy trial, freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
He said prisoners also have the right to equality before the law.
Guduza said Zimbabwe is a signatory to the 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) and the Convention against Torture, Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
“Over and above these instruments, Zimbabwe’s Constitution and laws provides for human rights of prisoners. These rights include the right to adequate and safe food, sleep, dignity, provision of clean water, healthy prison conditions with proper ablution facilities, adequate clothing and the right to adequate bedding,” he said.
“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 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.”
He said ill-treatment of prisoners must be condemned by all people regardless of political affiliation.
MLF became known when its members burnt a Zimbabwean flag in South Africa sometime in 2011, as they demanded secession of Matabeleland from the rest of the country.