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Top MDC official recounts prison ‘hell’

A top MDC official, who was incarcerated together with 11 party youths in connection with protests in Chitungwiza last month, has described conditions under which they were held as hell.

By Brenna Matendere

Stephen Sarkozy Chuma, the MDC youth assembly spokesperson, and his colleagues were jailed at the Harare Remand Prison for 25 days before they were released on bail.

The 12 were arrested on February 29 on charges of gathering with the intent to cause violence in Chitungwiza.

It was after they were found by riot police seated at MDC deputy chairperson Job Sikhala’s house ahead of a raid that was conducted by the law enforcement agents.

Chuma was arrested together with Elton Marimbe, Nyasha Mutsindikwa, Dambudzo Mhike, Tendayi Timuri, Jabulani Chatindiara, Chris Muretu, Terrence Manjengwa, John Molebaleng, Bruan Mushakwe, Tanyaradzwa Zawaira and Taurai Nyamanhindi.

They were freed on bail last Wednesday and remanded to June 17.

Chuma claimed a security detail threatened them with death while in remand prison.

“From every facet, the institution (Harare Remand Prison) which is located along Enterprise Road has become a symbol of military dictatorship where dissenting political voices are subjected to torture, which defiles and defies local and international statutes on rights of detainees,” he said.

“At the centre of persecution of political detainees is one boastful Ronald Chiwakaya, who is the officer-in-charge at the torture institution.

“In one instance, he called me and 11 other co-accused MDC activists to his office whereupon he pulled his 9mm shotgun and pointed at us.”

Chuma added: “He uttered all sorts of polemic attacks on our party and its leadership, which he branded as agents of the West.

“Chiwakaya, who is a self-proclaimed participant of the Gukurahundi killings, threatened us with death and disappearance, citing the suspicious death of fallen MDC leader Learnmore Jongwe and activist Hilton Tamangani at the hands of the state.”

The MDC activist claimed inmates were being forced to support Zanu PF.

“We were made to watch Zanu PF propaganda documentaries for three hours on Friday 20 March and Tuesday 25 March,” Chuma said.

“The nervous conditions at Harare Remand Prison where raw sewage flows in cell corridors makes the institution a death trap.

“Critical water shortages at the institution compound the situation and as a result there are already fears of typhoid as evidenced by inmates faecal matter laced with blood, which could be easily seen in toilets that go for days without water.

“With coronavirus at our doorsteps, there are fears that inmates will be wiped out due to over-congestion in cells if the pandemic finds its way into prisons.”

“In spite of all the challenges, threats and persecution, we remain unmoved and unshaken.”
Repeated efforts to contact Chiwakaya were fruitless.

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