A massive cover-up was feared last night as it emerged that two more inmates who were hospitalised at Parirenyatwa Hospital with gunshot wounds had died.

Prison officials however refused to disclose the cause of their deaths, saying they were still waiting for post-mortems.

Reports are that the deceased were among the eight that had been admitted in hospital with severe injuries, having been shot in gun battles between inmates and prison guards that ensued during the riots on Friday.

While guards who spoke to news crew revealed that they had been shot, officials said the inmates had died in a stampede.

Denials by the officials were seen as an attempt to cover-up and there were calls by concerned prison guards for government to probe the incident in order to establish what actually happened, and to get the numbers of inmates who were either injured or had been killed.

They suggested the parliamentary committee dealing with prisons should urgently visit the maximum security prison to see for themselves the injuries that were inflicted on the prisoners.

"There was a bloodbath. The truth needs to be told," a prison guard who was involved in the action to quell the riots said yesterday.

Reports yesterday indicated that up to 10 inmates were shot dead during the riots by over 900 prisoners at the correctional facility, but Chikurubi officials insists only three died.

Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) spokesperson Elizabeth Banda said the three who died were Dennis Aramu who was serving 29 years for breaching the firearms act, Pedzisai Nota (40) who was serving 27 years for armed robbery and Titus Mandikonza whose crime and sentence were not yet clear.

Nota and Mandikonza died at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Banda said five inmates were still admitted together with two prison officers following the mayhem that started after inmates refused to have sadza with vegetables for lunch.

She however said the situation was back to normal at the prison although security was still on high alert.

"The situation is now calm," she said.

Despite her claims, The Standard was told a witch hunt was taking place within the high prison walls and officials were determined to root out those responsible for instigating the riots.

Valuable property was destroyed by fire in the melee while gun fights ran for hours as armed prisoners briefly took control of the situation before reinforcements were called in.

The prisoners had disarmed prison guards who had to call reinforcements from the police, army and Central Intelligence Organisation after the situation got out of control.

This is the first known prison riot in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender chief executive officer Edson Chiota said the matter at Chikurubi could only be addressed by bringing in resources to help the dire situation.

He said had the state managed to properly finance the ZPCS, the incident would not have happened.

"You can only rehabilitate a person in an enabling environment. They have been running without resources for a period of more than 10 years now. It is not an issue of the department but an issue of the state not giving enough resources," said Chiota.

"The main issue is for the state to provide resources for the prisons because if you look at their budget you will see that the department is not provided with enough resources. The prisoners are just being looked after in terms of incarceration and not rehabilitation. The state should just provide resources to avoid the recurrence of this thing."

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said the Friday chaos reflected the current situation in Zimbabwe.

"It's symptomatic of the general mood in the country. People are living under harsh conditions and it is affecting not only those in prisons but also those on the streets," said Mangongera.

"The atmosphere in Zimbabwe is pregnant with something. It is like a powder keg which could explode at any minute."

Mangongera warned that it was high time government started waking up to the present hardships facing the country.

"My advice is that the country needs genuine dialogue between those in power and authority and the citizens because this denialism is self-defeating. We clearly have a crisis and for anyone to deny that it's like burying their head in the sand," he said.

Another political scientist Eldred Masunungure said the situation in the country could be worse and what happened at Chikurubi was a mirror of hardships in the country.

He said people had reached a point of saying "enough is enough" and in the absence of other channels to have the situation addressed, they would rise up as what happened at Chikurubi.

Masunungure said if the state could fail to feed prisoners in its custody, what would happen to other people on the streets.
"This is what one can call the microcosm of the society as a whole," he said.

"Things could be worse given that we are faced with a poor agricultural season and we can get to a situation where people will rise and say enough is enough. This is a dangerous situation."

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