Zimbabwean prisoners in South Africa who qualified for repatriation as early as March have bemoaned delays in their release at a time when the deadly Covid-19 has spread to the neighbouring country’s prisons.
Speaking to CITE from one of the prisons in Gauteng Province a man who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said they were stuck in jail despite having been assured prior the lockdown that they would be taken to repatriation centres.
“We have a problem as foreign nationals in jail,” said the man.
“Since the lockdown began, all foreigners are stuck in jail. There is no help that we are receiving. Coronavirus has even spread to jails.”
He said the expectation was that they would be released in July having entered into Level Two of Lockdown but that did not happen with South Africa remaining trapped under Level Three amid rising coronavirus cases.
“I am at Kgosi Mampuru prison and there are more than 30 of us (Zimbabweans) who are supposed to be deported since the beginning of March,” he said.
“However South Africans are getting released time and again. In other words, I can say we are being discriminated against.”
The man said prison management has said they would not release them until they receive instructions to do so from higher authorities.
“They also don’t have information on when we would be released,” he bemoaned.
“Our worry is that a number of prison officials have contracted the virus. As I speak at the prison where I am, the kitchen has been shut down because of people who tested positive.”
He, however, said while prisoners were tested for coronavirus none had tested positive.
Zimbabwe Community in South Africa spokesperson, Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi, said their organisation would find out on the matter and see how they could be of assistance.