By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
Harare, June 15, 2016 – A visit to two Harare prisons by People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti on Tuesday exposed crass profiteering by Zimbabwe’s Correctional Services who are selling foodstuffs at up to three times their normal prices to inmates.
Biti on Tuesday took time to visit 11 Occupy Africa Unity Square activists who have been languishing in Harare Central and Chikurubi Women’s Prisons for nearly a week on alleged robbery.
The former Finance Minister met the activists who complained about their failure to get adequate food in prison.
“The activists complained about the lack of food as the prison officials were denying visitors to bring them food from outside the prison complex citing health reasons,” said PDP in a statement
“The food and other drinks sold in prison, President Biti was told was going for that a two litre plastic bottle of Coke, which is sold outside for $1, 20 is going for $4, while a one litre bottle of water, which is sold for $0.75 in supermarkets is going for $1, 50.”
These astronomical prices, the activists said, were forcing most of the inmates to go hungry most of the times as prison food was inadequate and poorly prepared.
No comment from the Correctional Services could readily be obtained.
The activists include Linda Masarira, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Pride Mkono, Pamela Mawire and Makomborero Haruzivishe, Irene Takavada, Shadreck Dhliwayo and Brian Kansunzuma.
The activists, who are part of an initial 15 member group arrested, had completed nearly seven nights while sleeping at Africa Unity Square in protest over poor leadership by President Robert Mugabe’s government.
After allegedly failing to lay any charges against the group for its open defiance against the establishment, police have been accused of concocting robbery charges against them in a bid to remove them from the park.
The charges stem from an incident in one of the nights in which the activists were approached by two women who were purportedly looking for directions to Harare’s Epworth Township and later alleged robbery against the group.
They all deny the charges and have all been ordered to pay up huge amounts of money as bail money by the Harare magistrate’s court but have failed to pay the amount.
Their arrests and detention have been roundly condemned as gross rights abuses by progressive forces within the country’s democratic movement.