Interview

A Zimbabwean Activist Recalls Her Ordeal in Harare’s Most Notorious Prison

A Zimbabwean activist recounts her 84-day stay in Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare.

Frail and looking sick, 34-year-old Zimbabwean activist, Linda Masarira, walks in the streets of Harare a day after her discharge from a Harare hospital. Though she is now testing what she calls “freedom,” her mind returns to her recent 84-day stint in Chikurubi Maximum Prison.


Masarira, a widow and mother of five, was arrested during a protest on the 6th of July over President Robert Mugabe’s controversial 36-year rule. Her colleagues were all granted bail and released, but Masarira was treated as “an enemy of the state” and kept in prison without trial.

As one of the protest leaders in the country under the campaign movement Occupy Africa Unity Square, Masarira was treated differently from her peers.

“When the courts denied me bail, I thought being in prison would be a stroll in the park, however what I witnessed there was horrible,” Masarira explains, breaking into tears and uncontrollable sobbing in the process.

“Firstly there were nearly 40 of us in a prison cell meant for 15 inmates with one chamber that would only be flushed once a day. There were no blankets, no drinking water and food. The food brought by relatives was the only hope for survival,” she explains.

Masarira, who has yet to be tried, was meant to do hard labour in the fields with her fellow convicted inmates. The inmates, Masarira says, were not permitted to wear shoes whilst fetching water, despite sewer effluent covering the fields.

She added that some of the prison officers, who had their own issues with poverty resulting from their salaries not being paid, would take home food and toiletries brought by relatives of inmates.

Realising her health was deteriorating as a result of systematic abuse by prison officers, Masarira decided to mobilise other inmates. On the 9th of September she staged a hunger strike that lasted for a day. There were repercussions for fear of an uprising. “They severely assaulted me and placed me in a solitary confinement unfortunately in the male section.”

That was the start of Masarira’s demise. She was next placed in a cell three square meters in size. The cell had a toilet seat that was rarely emptied and a tiny concrete slab to sleep on.

For the next seven days, Masarira was denied food, water, bath and access to lawyers and relatives, despite prison officials knowing she was sick. For seven days, Masarira was handcuffed and placed in leg irons.

“This torture made me very weak until I pleaded with my lawyer on the seventh day. They wanted to kill my spirit but when I started taking food immediately my health deteriorated, I suspect due to food poisoning,” Masarira said.

Her health continued to worsen after her release from Chikurubi Maximum Prison on the 27th of September.

She was rushed to a private hospital in Harare complaining of chest pains, stomachache, vomiting and headaches. Masarira was only discharged from the hospital on the 10th of October and due to leave the country any time for specialist treatment in South Africa.

Other young activists who were also detained at Chikurubi Prison also corroborated Masarira’s prison accounts.

Shortly after this interview was conducted, Linda Masarira told Okayafrica she was abducted by police on Friday and illegally detained at Harare Central Police Station overnight. She paid a $100 bail today for alleged disorderly conduct.

Police beat up a protester during an electoral protest in Harare on 26 August, 2016. Photo by Zinyange Auntony.

CORROBORATION

When I spoke with 24-year-old Makomborero Haruzivishe, who is studying Psychology at the University of Zimbabwe, he called for a commission of enquiry aimed at reviewing the horrible treatment inmates receive in Zimbabwe prisons, particularly Chikurubi Maximum.

“For me Chikurubi is the worst prison any human being may ever be kept in the world as it is worse than the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Chikurubi is not even fit for animals habitation and should be closed,” Haruzivishe said.

He was arrested in early September during one of the protests organised by a movement called #Tajamuka. Although his arrest was not the first, his month-long stay at Chikurubi shocked him.

“I was in hell where we survived on stock feed used as mealie meal to prepare thick porridge. On a number of days the relish would thick spinach leaves boiled with only salt with no cooking oil. Sometimes official would prepare for us kapenta [anchovy-sized lake-fish] that would have to be fished out from a plate full of salty water because there would be only about seven kapentas in a plate,” Haruzivishe said.

Due to overcrowding in the cells, inmates would arrange themselves to sleep facing one direction and would alert each other each time they would turn.

“This prison is like a torture chamber as I heard fellow inmates crying each minute. I would only be informed of death of fellow inmates something that shook me as this was happening daily,” the student activist said.

Back in the female section at Chikurubi, inmates were not given sanitary pads, forcing female inmates to use dirty pieces of clothes. Children born in prison or taken to prison with their convicted mothers are forced to live in the same horrible manner as their mothers.

“If given a chance, I would call for the closure of Chikurubi Maximum Prison described by former inmate Simon Mann, as the monolithic reinforced-concrete battleship blockhouse. It’s not fit for human habitation,” Masarira said.

Shortly after this interview was conducted, Linda Masarira told Okayafrica she was abducted by police on Friday and illegally detained at Harare Central Police Station overnight. She paid a $100 bail today for alleged disorderly conduct.

Style

OkayAfrica and B4Bonah Share New 'B4Beginning' Capsule Collection

We've teamed up with the Ghanaian artist ahead of the release of his debut project for some colorful new merch.

Rising Ghanaian star B4Bonah, premieres his catchy debut track "See Body," and to mark the song's release, OkayAfrica has teamed up with the artist to share a new collection of tees, that'll fit nicely into your summer wardrobe.

The artist's latest track is a party jam, that sees him flowing "over an earworm flute melody and afrobeats percussion," using "his rasping flow to celebrate the girl of his dreams." The track was produced by J.Rocs.

B4Bonah - See Body www.youtube.com

In conjunction with the song's release, two new shirt designs are available for preorder at our Okayshop. The vibrant shirts feature the artist's image on colorful blue and green colored blocks, with the words "B4BONAH B4BEGINNING," on the back—referencing the artist's debut mixtape, which is slated for release in late July. The project features Medikal, Mugeez (R2Bees), Amaarae & Ivy Sole.


B4Bonah is an artist to watch, as he continues to make his presence known in the Ghanaian music scene.

Watch the music video for "See Body" above, and head to shop.okayplayer.com now to pick up to pre-order a shirt (or two). You can also preorder B4Bonah's B4beginning mixtape here.

popular

Watch EL, Joey B and Falz' New Video for 'Ehua'

Ghana meets Nigeria in this hilarious new clip.

Ghanaian rappers EL and Joey B connect with Nigeria's Falz for this addictive new collaboration and music video for "Ehua."

"Ehua" is built on energetic afro-electronic beat work produced by EL himself. Joey B handles the hook while Falz kicks things off early with a solid verse.

The eye-catching and hilarious music video for the single, directed by Yaw Skyface, features EL as a policeman, Falz as the 'oga' bossman, and Joey B as a worker for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

Falz takes Joey B's woman by showing off his money and status, so Joey B enlists policeman EL to get back at Falz. The plan backfires however as the officer decides to stick around and party with the rich instead of helping the everyday worker out.

For more GH hits check out our Best Ghanaian Songs of the Month roundups and follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Watch the new music video for EL, Joey B and Falz' "Ehua" below.

EL ft Joey B & Falz - Ehua (Official Video) youtu.be


News Brief
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Nigeria's Super Falcons Were Forced To Threaten a Sit-In Protest Over Unpaid Bonuses After Women's World Cup

After negotiations, the Nigerian Football Federation have agreed to run the players their money.

Nigeria's own Super Falcons had a great run during the Women's World Cup. But instead of the players heading back home or to their respective professional clubs after losing to Germany 3-0, they were forced to strong-arm the Nigerian Football Federation to pay what they're owed.

According to ESPN's initial report over the weekend, the Super Falcons threatened to stage a sit-in protest at their hotel in France until all of their unpaid bonuses dating back to two years ago were paid, along with their World Cup allowances and bonuses.

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