Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) leader, Mqondisi Moyo, stepped out of hiding Thursday to welcome nine party members in Bulawayo who are out on bail from Khami Remand Prison for alleged public violence.
The nine, who spent almost two months in prison after they stormed Bulawayo Central Police Station, narrated how horrific the jail experience is, as inmates have to endure the squalid conditions and ‘crappy’ food.
Speaking about their experience, MRP National League Chairperson, Sibongile Banda, said the conditions in jail are inhumane.
She was sent to Mlolondolozi Female Prison with another female party member, Busi Moyo.
Banda said their jail experience revealed how poorly managed prisons are.
“The experience was painful. We were harassed and I was denied medication for some time. The food we ate was horrible. As you can see one of us (Maxwell Nkosi) is not here but in hospital because one meal that was served contained a tshongololo (millipede),” Banda said.
Banda said it implied the cooking was done without care and Nkosi was unlucky to be served the portion with the millipede. “We were served rotten beans, as you see something which looked like maggots. If they served umfushwa (dried vegetables), you would see cat hairs inside. As for the meat, we thought it was donkey meat, as it did not taste like proper meat,” she said.
The women’s chair also alleged most of the inmates were reacting to something at Mlondolozi Female Prison, as they had developed an itchy rash on their skin.
“It is a painful rash plus we were overcrowded in one cell,” Banda claimed.
MRP Bulawayo Province Vice-Chairperson, Livson Ncube, concurred that both the food and way it was served was disgusting.
“The food was not fit for human consumption but for pigs. When they were serving us with meat, you would see someone literally dishing the meat using their hands. They would break the meat in pieces and then put it onto your plate. Since you are hungry, you have no choice but to eat and the prison officials were not allowing food from outside,” he said.
Ncube claimed the state of the toilet inside the cells was revolting.
“After someone relieves themselves, they would tear a piece from their blanket and use that to wipe themselves. It is tough! When outside jail, one would not know that is the life lived inside prisons especially in Khami. We can’t say Zimbabwe has 40 years of self rule due to such conditions. Even (Ian) Smith (colonialist ruler) was better than this because the jails are terrible,” he said.
MRP National Youth Chairperson, Mongameli Mlotshwa, further alleged some of the cells had no toilets and inmates were forced to relieve themselves on the floor.
“You enter cells at 3pm and only come out at 8am the next day, without a toilet. When someone is pressed they would relieve themselves there, regardless of others and we would sleep like that with the smell. As for the food, sometimes you would find scraps of metal that if you didn’t chew properly you would swallow it,” he said.
Mlotshwa claimed he once raised complaints about the terrible conditions, to the Officer in Charge, Jelouse Dumbura.
“But it seemed like our concerns didn’t matter. Those inmates who remained behind were dejected to see us leave as they would have no one to speak for them,” he said.
MRP Council of Elders representative Tinos Nkomo (73), claimed after they were arrested and put inside the cells at Bulawayo Central Police Station, he was beaten by “a well built police officer with fists,” until Banda reprimanded the cop for beating an elderly person.
Meanwhile, the MRP leader said it was necessary for him to come welcome his party members and show his support.
“I have spent close two months in hiding and staying in the bush. I realise that some people had started spreading fake news saying I skipped the country and left fellow party members to rot in jail. The police say their crime is public violence but that is untrue. They had gone to the police to ask my whereabouts since the security forces had previously come to my house at night,” Moyo highlighted.
“I am here to show them my support because the last time I saw them was before their arrest.”
MRP Secretary for youth, Ackim Ndebele, who was also imprisoned dismissed claims that MRP had wanted to “capture” the police station.
“We have no control over what police would accuse us of but we can control our own narrative. We went to the police station to ask where our leader was. It is our responsibility as party members to know of his whereabouts. We didn’t know he had managed to escape the security forces but thought they had taken him during the night,” he said.