Chikurubi Prison: why we must feel for female prisoners

By Daniel Chigundu

Chikurubi Female Maximum Prison is one of the worst places that you would not even wish your enemies to be detained at for whatever reasons.

The prison is well known for not having running water, coupled with defunct squat toilets and dilapidated showers.

Access to water and toilets is critical especially for women’s health whether free or incarcerated owing to their biological make-up.

In fact, the prison is a brazen attack on the basic human rights as enshrined in the Zimbabwe Constitution and other international laws.

Female inmates at Chikurubi Prison told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development that they use 2-litre containers and plastic bags as make-shift toilets from 4pm to 6am when they are closed in their cells owing to the state of toilets and unavailability of water.

Therefore locking Martha O’Donovan (25), MDC-T activist Yvonne Musarurwa and any other women at Chikurubi is as good as condemning them to hell, the situation is even worse for those with babies.

Besides the water and toilets issue, Chikurubi also faces serious food shortages which have resulted in inmates having to eat almost the same type of food for many months on a daily basis.

There are no sleeping mates in the cells at Chikurubi female prison and inmates sleep on the cold floors forcing some of them to use the few given blankets as make-shift mates.

In an interview in March this year (2017), MDC-T activist Yvonne Musarurwa said “we last ate meat in December which was brought by a certain church during Christmas time and so we have been eating sadza and boiled vegetables because there is no cooking oil.

“Sugar also ran out in December (2016) and we eat porridge without sugar every morning and unless you have relatives to bring you sugar, life is very hard here.

“Besides the food situation, toilet sanitizers and buckets are scarce. Sinks are not working and there is no running water and pipes are down,” she said.

In March this year also, Chikurubi reportedly owed Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals about US$600 000 in unpaid hospital fees which resulted in the hospital refusing to treat sick inmates from the prison.

According to inmates, the prison only focuses on HIV/Aids patients at the expense of other ailments such as sugar diabetes, hypertension and other sophisticated diseases.

Now imagine that Martha, who was remanded in custody to the 15th of November because of an alleged insulting retweet, will have to go through these experiences at Chikurubi.

Although the defence is expected to make an urgent bail application at the High Court today, the State has a record of employing delaying tactics is such matters.

If the State does delay the process then it means Martha will have to spend a longer period in custody without proper toilet facilities, running water and without sleeping mates.

There is no doubt that Chikurubi is hell for Martha, but like Jesus in Colossians 2:15, she will spoil their powers and triumph over them openly.

In the end, the truth will always win.

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