Covid-19 in prisons — urgent application filed

Tarisai Machakaire

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) has filed an urgent chamber application for the government to address health, dietary and sanitation requirements at the country’s prisons as part of efforts to combat the lethal coronavirus (Covid-19).
Part of their requests are for prisoners to be given two N95 masks per week, three pairs of disposable gloves, two reusable gloves every two months and a face shield every two months.
The Forum and Taurai Mbewe are applicants in the matter and commissioner- general of Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services(ZPCS) Moses Chihobvu, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Health minister and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube were cited as respondents.
They want ZPCS to ensure that prisoners and prison staff are adequately distanced from each other; acquisition of additional motor vehicles for the transportation of prisoners and that only safe numbers that allow for the two-metre distancing of prisoners are ferried on the available trucks on each trip.  
They have applied for Chiwenga and Ncube to immediately release funds for procurement of personal protective clothing, daily supply of drinking, cooking, ablution and bath water and enhanced sanitisation of all prison facilities and fumigation once a week.
Mbewe, who has been detained at Harare Remand Prison since June 20 on unlawful entry charges, complained that they are congested in prison trucks when taken to and from courts.
“When we are transported to court, the congestion in the prisons truck is excessive.
“There can be as many as 50 to 60 inmates in that truck whose ventilation is poor and whose carrying capacity is well below those high numbers,” Mbewe said.
“The section where I am detained which is generally reserved for class C inmates is extremely over-crowded with approximately 50 to 55 inmates when, as I see it, that part of the prison is designed for 20 to 30 inmates.”
Mbewe said the medical facilities were ill-resourced and relayed how he was made to drink water after complaining of stomach
He said the diet was poor and cells were dirty amid water shortages that made it difficult to contain the spread of Covid-19.

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