Quarantined inmates condemn police heavy-handedness at Mushagashe

By Star Matsongoni

People quarantined at Mushagashe Training Centre outside Masvingo town along the road to Harare have complained that police and soldiers deployed there are using heavy-handed tactics whenever they try to raise issues that concern them.

The training centre was recently approved to hold people coming from neighbouring countries like Botswana and South Africa in quarantine for a maximum of 21 days.

Authorities had initially indicated that the centre was not suitable for use as a quarantine centre as its accommodation facilities were dormitories that made it difficult to make sleeping arrangements respecting social distancing rules.

Some of the people held there, however, complain that they have spent over 21 days at the centre but they have not been tested and there is no showing that they could be released any time soon.

This, they say, has fomented grievances as inmates want to know progress being made towards testing them.

“The police and army officer deployed here, however, are overly strict and paranoid. Whenever we try to register grievances or get clarifications from social services and health authorities here, we are met with brute force.

“Yesterday, the people we chose to represent us tried to initiate engagement but it all ended in grief as we were all rounded up and locked-up in one big room for the rest of the day where social-distancing was impossible. Our leaders were then detained in a separate room for questioning,” said one inmate who contacted TellZim News.

Another female inmate said they were once locked up and starved for the rest of the day after they complained about the bad state of sanitary facilities at the centre.

“The police and soldiers accused us of planning to stage demonstrations and they locked us up and denied us food for the rest of the day. This was after we raised concerns that the toilets and bathrooms were not being properly cleaned and maintained.

‘Besides that, a new inmate is added to the existing group so we end up mixed-up; those that came weeks back and those that are arriving now. How do you expect us to tolerate that when the focus should be on keeping people from different places apart,” said the inmate.

Others complain that the health authorities that visit the place do not bother talking to them either individually or to address them as a group.

When contacted for comment, Masvingo Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Dr Amadeus Shamu disputed inmates’ claims that they had spent several weeks in quarantine, saying most have been there only for a week.

He also claimed that all the people were tested upon arrival at the quarantine and were not yet due for retests.

Shamu also referred questions about mixing of new arrivals with those that have been there for long to the Social Welfare department but no comment could be obtained there by the time of publishing.

TellZim News