The ZPCS spokesperson Supt Meya Khanyezi has denied ill-treating journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and activist Jacob Ngarivhume. The two were arrested over allegations connected to the July 31 demo.
Yesterday lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa complained over how they have been suddenly transferred to the COVID fested Chikurubi maximum and afterwards denied food from outside, as also their re;stoves and friends are blocked from seeing them. There are fears that the two will be poisoned.
Khanyezi said the Commissioner General of Prisons is allowed under the country’s laws to transfer or make standing orders without consulting legal representatives of inmates.
“The Commissioner General is empowered to make standing orders and it is in terms of these standing orders that certain categories of prisoners can only have visitors within sight and hearing of prison officers. Transfer of inmates from one prison to another is entirely an administrative issue. ZPCS is not obligated to inform an inmate’s lawyers,” he said.
The state owned Herald quoted the so called Commissioner General Standing Order, Part VII Visits and Communication Section 140 (6), which says “Unless specifically authorised by the Commissioner General, all visits by a legal practitioner shall be in the presence and hearing of an officer who understands the language used and it shall be a condition of the visit that the legal practitioner may only discuss matters arising from his employment as legal representative of the detainee.
The ZPCS has been blocking relatives and friends from accessing Chinono and Ngarivhume.
“The decision to suspend the visits was taken with the interest of offenders at heart. It is not a punitive measure but a temporary preventive action meant to ensure that the incarcerated are protected from the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected and killed a number of people worldwide. Although we have recorded cases in Beitbridge, Plumtree, Masvingo, Whawha and Bulawayo we have since put measures to curb the continuous spread of the disease in our prisons.
“This was not a decision we arrived at lightly, as we understand and recognise the importance of family contact with the prison population. Our primary concern has to be public safety and reducing the number of people who enter our facilities is a key factor in limiting the potential spread of this illness into our prisoner population. The department will continue to monitor the situation to determine when visits will be restored,” said Supt Khanyezi.
He said since convicted prisoners and persons on remand are held in a high-risk environment as facilities are not adapted to face large-scale epidemics, it is important to minimize visits.
“As ZPCS we also ensure that during the Covid-19 pandemic the human rights of all those who remain in detention are upheld while taking the specific needs of the most vulnerable detainees, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and juvenile detainees into account. Any restrictions imposed on detainees should be non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent”.