The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa was Friday morning temporarily denied entrance into Chikurubi Maximum prison where he had gone to visit jailed party activists Tungamirai Madzokere and Last Maengahama who are serving 20 years each for murdering a police officer.
Chamisa was scheduled to visit the inmates at 11:00am but had to endure a torrid one and half hours as the guards at the main gate made countless calls to ‘higher offices’.
Speaking to the media after the visit, Chamisa bemoaned the “dictatorial tendencies” exhibited by the state while bemoaning the deplorable state of cells at the country’s biggest prison.
“I have had to come here to spend more than three hours waiting for the clearance. I understand that they indicated that I’m high profile so they needed to make sure that they inform their head office.
The opposition leader said despite him being a leader of the biggest opposition movement, he still has “ordinary” rights, like anyone else, charging that there was no reason for him to be barred from accessing the prison.
”It is undesirable and very unfortunate. I’m a lawyer, I have every right as a lawyer to visit any client whom I wish to visit but more to that I’m also a leader of a political party, legitimate, legal and lawful political party,” he noted.
“So if I wish to visit any person, I should also have the same right. I’m not asking for any privilege, I’m not asking for any special treatment, I’m just asking for the ordinary privilege to be able to have access,” Chamisa charged.
He deemed the move to block him as dictatorship.
“When you have a dictatorship around entrance into a prison gate, there is not a better dramatization of a manifestation of the undesirable circumstances of tyranny. That was really quite disturbing but fortunately, we ended up seeing them,” said Chamisa.
In 2016, the late former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in the company of Chamisa and other party bigwigs, were also barred from entering the same prison to visit their party members.
Meanwhile, Chamisa told reporters that the inhumane conditions being subjected to inmates at Chikurubi were not commendable.
“They told me about the challenges they are facing as inmates. They told me that they have about 2600 inmates and together with their colleagues, they are getting between six to 10 thousand litres of water per day meaning for every inmate, there are about four litres for drinking, bathing and other important necessities.
“So it’s quite a dicey situation for the inmates and they also told me that the prison has cracked walls so they are worried about their safety,” Chamisa said.
Such conditions are common in Zimbabwe’s 46 prisons which were reportedly built to collectively accommodate only 14,000 prisoners against the current population of over 20,000 today.