Police Cells Stink: Judges

Five Supreme Court judges namely Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, Justice Rita Makarau, Justice Paddington Garwe, Justice Yunus Omerjee and Justice Anne-Mary Gowora inspected the holding cells to ascertain their conditions after a pressure group; Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) leaders petitioned the court to declare them as uninhabitable.

“One of the cells on the first floor had a stench but the floor appeared to have been cleaned. In that cell there were six blankets lying on the built on concrete beds. In each cell that we inspected there were six built in beds with no mattresses….Around each of the toilets there was a concrete block which was about a meter high but without a door,” said Justice Ziyambi, who read out the Supreme Court’s observations in court after the inspection. The hearing continues.

WOZA leaders Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Celina Madukani and Clara Manjengwa through their lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) petitioned the Supreme Court seeking an order compelling the government to ensure that holding cells at Harare Central Police Station meet basic hygienic conditions.

The WOZA leaders petitioned the court after their arrest and detention last year under conditions that constituted inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of S 15 (1) of the constitution.

They were arrested for demonstrating against government’s failure to adhere to human rights.

WOZA, whose members are regularly, detained in grubby police cells for staging anti-government protests want the detention cells at Harare Central Police Station to be cleaned and resourced with toilet paper and washing bowls and not the current case where the conditions are unhygienic.

The WOZA leaders want the police to provide a clean mattress and adequate blankets, as well as adequate bathing or shower installations for each person detained in police custody overnight.

The activists also want detainees to have access to sufficient drinking water suitable for consumption and for detainees to enjoy daily exposure to natural light and appropriate ventilation and heating.

In 2005, the Supreme Court condemned police cells at Matapi and Highlands police stations as degrading and inhuman and unfit for holding criminal suspects.

The Supreme Court’s ruling followed an application filed by ZLHR on behalf of former Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union secretary-general Wellington Chibebe and Nancy Kachingwe after they had been detained at the two filthy holding cells.