HARARE – Fears of the outbreak of waterborne diseases abound at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where male inmates have gone for over a week without clean water.
While the male section of the penitentiary has been experiencing erratic water supply for some time, the situation worsened a week ago.
On Monday, scores of inmates could be seen carrying buckets of the precious resource over their heads from a water source outside the prison. A prison guard who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal said water had become a scarce commodity at the prison, which houses over 2 400 inmates.
“We have not had consistent running water at Chikurubi Prison Complex for years now. Sometimes prisoners can go for days without bathing due to lack of water,” he said. On Monday, an MDC delegation led by the party’s acting president, Elias Mudzuri, visited political activists who are languishing at Chikurubi.
Tungamirai Madzokere and Last Maengahama are among MDC activists who are doing time at Chikurubi for murder.
Mudzuri, who also met incarcerated former Zanu PF Member of Parliament Munyaradzi Kereke, said while the prisoners were in high spirits, they advised him of the dire water situation at the male section of the prison.
“I briefed the detained party activists about the situation in the country and assured (them) that the party will continue to give priority to their welfare and that of their families. It was uplifting that they have not allowed their contrived predicament to dampen their spirits,” he said.
“The detained party cadres said they were optimistic about the next election and were hopeful that they would soon rejoin their families,” added Mudzuri.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Elizabeth Banda rubbished claims that the water situation has deteriorated.
“One thing you have to understand is that these are prisoners who have wronged the society and therefore will ride on any sympathy they can get. Chikurubi Prison Complex is a closed community and is currently relying (on) water from boreholes,” she said.
Banda said the water supply situation greatly improved after the International Committee of the Red Cross drilled boreholes at the prison in 2015.
“So water is being supplied on a daily basis. The only concern we have is that by the time it reaches the male section it will have low pressure,” she said.
“Those inmates you see with buckets will be working at farms and would have taken that water to use as they work. As far as waterborne diseases are concerned, we (are) working with city health (department) and the ministry of Health to avert that. We are also very worried about the issue of cholera and we are on high alert.”
Banda acknowledged, however, that there was need for more upgrades of water infrastructure at the correctional facility.
“We need all the help we can get. These prisoners are not ours, but they belong to all of us and if we can get help of booster pumps, we would be grateful,” she said.
Waterborne diseases thrive where people eat foods cooked or prepared in unhygienic conditions and where people do not wash hands before eating food after visiting the toilet.
Zimbabwe is currently on high alert after a cholera outbreak hit Chegutu in Mashonaland West.
The outbreak has so far claimed four lives while 30 suspected cases have been recorded.
Government has set up a national rapid response team with the help of the World Health Organisation to conduct a cholera assessment in the affected province.