A friend dies in prison
Life and death in Zimbabwe's horrific jails
My good friend Howard died in Mutimurefu Prison, in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, last week. the victim of abuse, starvation and infection. Many more are suffering similar fates within our places of detention, every day of the week. I am writing this to mark the death of Howard Erika, Prison No. 1141/03.
Mutimurefu is a dreadful place. It is almost literally falling down due to consistent neglect. The sewage system is disfunctional, and human effluent flows through the corridors. It took four months for these conditions to kill Howard.
There is an ironic twist to his death while in the hands of Mugabe's so-called security system. He was no gallant fighter for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Quite the reverse. Howard, with a wife and three children to feed, joined one of the Zanu-PF terror squads.
But his conscience troubled him. He made contact with some MDC supporters, and gave them information about action to be taken against them. Suspicions were aroused, and eventually he was arrested on the almost unbelievable charge of beating up MDC people.
The case never came to court. Instead, inside Mutimurefu, he was locked into a two-man cell with up to twenty other men. The only food they received was a bowl of vegetable soup once a day. They fell ill, but requests for medicine were denied. They were beaten, and sexual abuse was rife. The results included tuberculosis, pellagra (caused by diet deficiency) mental illness, and in all likelihood, Aids.
With no washing facilities available, all the prisoners became infested with lice.
I know these details thanks to a sympathetic source from within the prison. He told me that when a prisoner died he was simply dumped into a cell used as a mortuary. The authorities took their time informing relatives, and the corpses decayed. Eventually they were given a pauper's burial.
"You must be very careful, if you have a relative imprisoned here," my source told me. "Unless a prisoner has his own source of food, he will surely die."
The deaths of six other inmates of Mutimurefu were announced along with Howard's. The men were Patrick Bhumera (PN 1594/06), Ceplos Lasani (PN 1656/06), Pedzisai Muvengwa (PN 747/07), Alimony Dzaromba (PN 248/07), Skubekhile Masuku (PN 320/08 and Josephe Mahumbike (PN not known.) R.I.P.