Timba who was arrested and locked up at the Matapi police cells last month has written to Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda asking him to close the cells because they are not fit for human habitation.
The Matapi police cells where condemned in 2005 by the Supreme Court in a ruling passed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.
“Your worship, the above inadequacies in the holding cells are a threat to public health in the city and beyond,” said Timba in a July 22 letter to Masunda also copied to the city of Harare Town Clerk, City Health Director, co-ministers of Home Affairs, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“I am, therefore, requesting that the city invokes the relevant by-laws and shut down this inhuman facility in the interest of public health until the relevant authorities have rectified the above inadequacies to your satisfaction.”
Timba was arrested for calling Mugabe a “liar”.
“May l also say that any policeman who has detained anyone at Matapi – before council rectifies the inadequacies noted by the Supreme Court – is in contempt of court from the date of the ruling,” Timba said.
The latest calls by Timba – one of Tsvangirai’s closest aides and advisors – come as the country has witnessed an escalation in the arrests of non-Zanu (PF) members and others fighting for more enhanced individual freedoms.
In a 2005 ruling on the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union secretary general Wellington Chibebe, Nancy Kachingwe and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ application for better detention conditions, Chidyausiku described the Matapi cells and those in Highlands as “degrading, inhumane and unfit for holding criminal suspects.”
The ruling also ordered the Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) to improve conditions in the country’s jails.
Zimbabwe’s correctional services are generally deplorable and in recent years a commission led by another Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau decried overcrowding, poor diet and the high prevalence of disease, and pestilence in the country’s jails.
Recently, a parliamentary committee also raised the same issues – bordering on human rights abuses – and urged authorities to act on the state of the country’s prisons.
The committee concluded that some of the country’s jails are a death sentence in themselves.