Zim's Filthy Police Cells Under Spotlight

Early this year, WOZA, the aggressive women pressure group, 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 Supreme Court says the inhuman conditions that characterises police cells at Harare Central Police Station, where several political and human rights activists have been detained over the years, will be under the spotlight when it begins hearing a constitutional application by the pressure group next Thursday.

“Take notice that the application will be heard and determined by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe at Harare on Thursday the 14th day of June 2012 at 9:30 or soon thereafter as counsel may be heard,” reads part of a letter written to WOZA lawyers by the Registrar of the Supreme Court.

The hearing follows an application filed by Bellinda Chinowawa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on behalf of WOZA leaders Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Celina Madukani and Clara Manjengwa after their arrest and detention 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 last year.

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.