Zim Women Sue Ministers Over Deplorable Prisons
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), have written to co-home affairs ministers informing them of the intention to sue them for the inhumane conditions its members went through while in detention at the Harare central police station prison cells.
A letter of notice of intention to sue Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone has already been sent by Woza lawyers.
Jenniffer Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Sellina Madukani represented by Belinda Chinowawa wants to petition the
Supreme Court to declare the conditions at central police cells a violation of section 15 of the Constitution.
The letter, dated 25 August 2010 was sent to Mohadi, Makone and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.
The lawyers said in the letter Woza members held a demonstration in April this year protesting against poor service delivery by the
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).
The demonstration was quelled by the police and 71 women activists were arrested and taken to Harare Central Police Station.
“On the 15th of April 2010, WOZA conducted a demonstration against appalling service provision from the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority (ZESA), which commenced around noon of that day in Harare,” the lawyers said in the letter.
“Approximately, half an hour later, a vehicle from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Riot Squad arrived, and when armed police
alighted, some of the protesters fled, while others remained resolute, and did not flee.”
“Our clients inform us that they were then forced to remove their shoes and all under-garments including brassieres and under-pants
until they each had a single top and bottom. It was clear from the circumstances and demeanour of the police details that this was a
peremptory order, which all detainees were subjected to, in terms of the practice and rules at the Harare Central Holding Cells.”
The lawyers said those arrested and thrown into the cells were chocked by the smell of human excreta and flowing urine of varying
“Even the beds were covered with human excreta, so they sat and spent the night huddled in the corridors of the cells, as they could not sit
inside the cells due to the faeces. However, even the corridor itself had flowing urine and they had to use their own tissues, to clean up
the area where they planned to sit on.”
“When they wanted to use the toilet, they discovered that it was inside the cells, and they had to wade through a small pool of urine
to get there. The toilets had no running water and were already full to overflowing with human excreta,” said the lawyers.
The claim that police denied them access to the toilets with their own tissue paper and categorically stated that they would have to use
their bare hands.
They said the situation was “extremely humiliating, more so because Magodonga Mahlangu, had a running stomach and had to use the toilet
frequently. There was neither a hand basin nor soap in the cell in the cell so they could not wash their hands after using the toilet.”
“During the night they requested some blankets for warmth, and were given blankets which had clearly been dipped in and were reeking of
urine. They gave them 3 blankets, despite the fact we there was now a total of 16 detainees, as there were more people that had been
arrested for varying offences, unrelated to the demonstration.”
“Due to the strong stench, they could not cover themselves with the blankets, and just put the blankets on the cement floor so as to make
their situation a little more comfortable. They spent a total of 4 nights in this insalubrious environment, and complaints to the police
fell on deaf ears.