Several inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison are nursing life-threatening injuries sustained during food riots that rocked the correctional facility two weeks ago, it has emerged.
BY OBEY MANAYITI/SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Five inmates were shot and killed during the standoff, according to officials, but sources insist at least 10 prisoners died.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday told Parliament that jailed RMG Independent End Time Message founder Robert Martin Gumbura — who is serving 40 years for rape — was one the masterminds of the riots.
Prison sources said a number of injured prisoners were receiving treatment at the prison clinic.
“Only a few officials are allowed close to the injured prisoners, but we have heard that many of them sustained serious injuries after they were shot,” a source at the maximum security prison said.
There were reports that the masterminds of the prison meleé convinced some of the inmates that guns being carried by prison guards were not loaded.
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) officials have, however, remained mum on the actual number of inmates who died during the riots.
ZPCS spokesperson Elizabeth Banda also refused to reveal what action would be taken against Gumbura or others that would have been found guilty of organising the mayhem.
She demanded questions in writing, but however, did not respond to them up to the time of going to print.
Asked if it was true that Gumbura was behind the riots, his lawyer Tapson Dzvetero said he would meet his client early this week for instructions.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has since visited Chikurubi to get first-hand appreciation of the state of the facility.
ZHRC chairman Elasto Mugwadi said the conditions at Chikurubi were not fit for human habitation.
“The complex is overcrowded. It is supposed to house 1 360 inmates, but it has 2 270 inmates,” he said.
“We are, therefore, calling on government to urgently do something about it.”
Mugwadi said there was urgent need for ZPCS to adhere to the Constitution-recommended dietary scale.
“We call upon the State to adequately finance the ZPCS so that it can satisfactorily provide the basic needs of every prisoner,” Mugwadi said.
“The State is further called upon to ease the congestion at all the country’s prisons and not go beyond the holding capacity.”
Meanwhile, as government tries to unpack the cause of the riots, prison sources said State security agents had been roped in to find the truth from inside the prison walls.
According to sources privy to the investigations, the agents have been sent in disguised as prisoners and/or wardens to probe and monitor the goings-on in case of future disturbances.
The sources said there had been recalls of several ZPCS officers to allow infiltration of secret agents.
“Currently, there are two infiltrators at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, while four others have been placed in there disguised as prisoners. These are undercover to avoid blowing the cover of the infiltrators,” another source said.
“The kind of information that they are trying to get can only be provided by a person who is actually in prison.”
The source said while in prison, the agents would from time to time get “visitors” whom they provide with feedback.