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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Eyewitness report from a Zimbabwe prison
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¬†Anglican Information has sent us this account by a well-known personality in Bulawayo who writes for a journal critical of the Mugabe regime. Our friends observe that it is not surprising that MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsangerai is being cautious about returning to Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime would gladly arrest or even kill him; perhaps in a prison like the one described below. This journalist was recently arrested from home with the support of AK47 armed soldiers, thrown into jail for four nights and then released on bail on spurious charges. Names of those quoted in this article have been changed to protect them. AI said: "We greatly admire how it is possible to remain cheerful and humorous in such circumstances ≠ but that's how most people in Zimbabwe survive in these terrible days." IN JAIL AND IN THE COMPANY OF 'PAVEMENT BLOCKERS' Such fun we had in our tiny cell,...... 20 "pavement blockers" , shop lifters, ladies of the night .... and one small wannabee journalist! As I was pushed into the pitch dark cell at 10 p.m. at night.... I heard the hiss "makiwa" !! I slid silently down into a diminutive space on the concrete floor next to the foul smelling toilet, and tried desperately to get my eyes used to the terrifying darkness..... then a soft hand reached over and shook my knee "Welcome Makiwa" what are you here for? When I mentioned my "Crime" there was an instant excited hullabaloo and space was made for me further away from the stench of the toilet.... Little did I know that the din was keeping a fellow journalist awake in the cell next door. My Cell Mates were delightful, if excitable, some of them had spent several nights on the cold concrete floor and were dressed accordingly. There were 21 of us in a cell. Measuring five metres by three metres and we had four blankets between us! April nights in Zimbabwe can be extremely chilly to say the least. When the Dawn eventually broke, I noticed that most of the ladies were wearing their clothes turned inside out - a simple explanation if you are a "pavement blocker?" Once your fine has been paid in the morning, you turn your clothes the right way round, and go straight back to work as clean as a whistle . We were allowed just two articles of clothing, no bra, no knickers, no shoes and no socks ! What was more alarming was that were were not allowed toilet paper or water either! Just a top article and a bottom article. My friend Johnny had brought me a warm jacket and a track suit bottom, but my feet froze ....... the ladies were much cleverer than I, a warm top and a voluminous wrap around skirt that can serve as a blanket is much more sensible and a tip I will remember! A "pavement blocker", I learned amidst much mirth, is a forex dealer (foreign money exchange dealers providing one of the racketeering ways in which corrupt government officials make their money by buying at the artificial 'official' rate and selling at the vastly inflated black market rate) ..... but one cannot be convicted as a forex dealer as the Reserve Bank of the country often buys forex from these very same ladies, and of course then it is not a crime!! It was a long, long freezing night where only ten of us could lie down and the other eleven would sit, however we all swopped at most civilized intervals. It reminded me that kiddies song I used to sing to my babes..... 'There were ten in a bed And the little one said "Roll over, roll over" So they all rolled over And one fell out' However we kept each other warm, except that Mama on my left had pneumonia and Mary on my right had what sounded suspiciously like Tuberculosis! Morning was a joyous affair, the guards chased us out most rudely at 6am to count us and then chased us in again until 8 when food arrived. Now the only food one gets in a Zimbabwe prison is what the relatives bring, and so if you have no one you get no food, it is as simple as that! ( However, I had already decided not to drink or eat as this would necessitate the use of the loo which was open to all to view and also I had nothing on my feet and the area around the loo was awash. At eight they let us out again into a small sunny pen along with the inmates from the next door cells, and I met fellow Journo ....... from (a UK newspaper) as well as an axe murderer from the cell at the end! Through the wire I saw the sweetest sight, Johnny at the gate to the Central Bulawayo Police Station my friend Johnny surrounded by a throng of folk, craning his neck to see if his wife had survived the night, waving a plastic bag of food excitedly. Once we got some food, no one went without,... the Haves shared with the Have Nots .... The UK journalist was most popular as his goody bag contained the items he had bought at the Johannesburg duty free shop and contained delicacies which his fellow inmates certainly did not normally eat. We were allowed to visit a tap near the over flowing dust bins in the courtyard for ablutions, after breakfast ..... and then we were instructed to throw a bucket of water at our lavatories and to hang our four blankets in the sun for ten minutes (lice apparently do not like the sun.) Pushed rudely back into the cells; if I had thought the night long, I found out the days were just as long.... Although I had company the girls soon tired of speaking in English and I am ashamed to say my Shona and Ndebele is pretty sketchy. But as the day wore on and people came and went I learnt a lot about prison life ... For example, the longer one's incarceration, the further one is allowed away from the stinky toilet! By noon I was sitting on top of the concrete bed the very furthest corner of the cell. Most of my new friends had been remanded and released except for the two "ladies of the night" who were by now standing on the toilet looking out of the tiny barred aperture hoping to pick up some custom! By lunchtime my dear friends had already arranged a feeding roster and Johnny was bringing in food and delicious cups of hot steaming tea. And so it continued for the next four days .... my favorite meals were the fish cakes that Johnny cooked personally. Five days and four nights melted into long sessions of interrogation (with no lawyer allowed to be present), where the men from the CIO (Central Intelligence Organization) and the scary men from Presidents Office joined forces with the much nicer local Law and Order detectives, to ascertain that I was not after all, really ....X.... from Sky News.... !! The second, third and fourth nights Johnny successfully negotiated a "Private En Suite Cell" at Sauerstown Police Station for me where I was kept in solitary confinement but only because there were no other women in the cells ..... The poor male felons on the other side of my cell wall would bang messages on the wall to comfort me, my fists were pretty sore after a couple of days. Such bliss, the cell was the same size but much cleaner although the blankets were stiff with dirt, and there was a gap of about four inches broken off the bottom of the door ..... Numerous ants came in to visit me, the droves of mosquitoes were convinced that my blood was the best thing they had tasted this year but I could lie on the floor and look out into the court yard for entertainment. Johnny attempted to bring me books, loo paper and water but all were refused..... I did not dare go to sleep sleep in case a snake or a rat or worse came in to eat me while my eyes were closed. Solitary confinement is actually pretty scary and when one of the male guards called me "Sweetie" I nearly had a heart attack .... Johnny did manage to negotiate my very own blanket for the last two nights! Poor Johnny, however, was not having such a delightfully enforced rest, he moved mountains literally to keep everyone else safe and secure. Somehow, as only Johnny can do, he managed to safeguard the lives of several vulnerable people and got them into safety and away from the claws of this strange, manic, demented society in which we are forced to live at this time in Zimbabwe. How can I ever forget the love, warmth, prayers and support the whole world has shown me and my family over the past horrid four weeks. Watch out for the unabridged version of this missal after we have gone to trial..... and hopefully these spurious charges have been dropped. God Bless you all and thank you so much for caring for the brave and selfless folk who are trying so hard to save our country. Source: ANGLICAN-INFORMATION 'A voice for the voiceless'
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