Panafrican News Agency

Prominent Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono's health deteriorates in Zimbabwean prison

Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) - Zimbabwe's jailed prominent journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, is now unwell at the country's notorious Chikurubi Maximam Security Prison in the capital, according to renowned local human rights lawyer, Douglas Coltart.

Chin’ono has been incarcerated since July 20 following his arrest on allegations of inciting public violence by allegedly urging the citizenry to participate in the foiled July 31 anti-government protest that turned into a national stay away.

During his incarceration, Chin’ono was removed from remand and sent to the Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

“I have just visited Hopewell Chin’ono at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and can confirm that he is unwell. We have alerted his private doctor who will be attending to him immediately and we will act accordingly based on the medical assessment and advice,” Coltart tweeted on social media blogging website, Twitter.

Chin’ono’s deteriorating condition was also raised by the Zimbabwean, United Kingdom-based law lecturer, Alex Magaisa, who tweeted:

“Further to my earlier tweet concerning Hopewell Chin’ono, I’m advised that the symptoms he is exhibiting include a fever, muscle aches, headache and distorted taste. I’m advised that a swab was taken & relevant tests are being conducted.”

PANA understands that Chin’ono sent a message through MDC Alliance national deputy chairperson, Job Sikhala, who was recently incarcerated after weeks in hiding, to his lawyer Harrison Nkomo to immediately call Beatrice Mtetwa to advise her of the situation.

Mtetwa, a respected and renowned human rights lawyer, was Chin'ono's lawyer but was last month removed  from that position by the Harare Magistrate Court and is currently having ‘contempt of court’ proceedings instituted by the Prosecutor General.

PANA understands that since being incarcerated, Chin’ono has been surviving on biscuits and water as prison authorities are barring him from getting warm food from outside.

PANA also understands that Chin’ono has been cautious not to eat from prepared food in prison as he is afraid of being poisoned rumors which exiled former cabinet minister, Jonathan Moyo, has warned about on his Twitter account.

Currently, a private doctor has been sent to Chikurubi Maximum Prison to attend to  Chin’ono.

According to Human Rights Watch, as Covid-19 cases rise in Zimbabwe, there are major risks to the country’s prisons and detention centers.

In a report last month, it found that these facilities are often unsanitary, overcrowded, and have no running water in cells for detainees to comply with hygiene practices recommended to stem the spread of the disease.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health said Zimbabwe as at Monday, had 6,497 confirmed cases, including 5,221 recoveries and 202 deaths. As such, HRW warned that the situation in the country’s prisons and jails could get much worse.

Yet, despite this, anti-corruption activists Chin’ono and political leader Jacob Ngarivhume, also arrested on July 26, were put in these congested pretrial detention facilities despite the law guaranteeing their right to bail which is being constantly denied.

“Others are arbitrarily detained for simply speaking out or otherwise exercising their rights. In March, the government acknowledged that Zimbabwe’s prisons, with a capacity for 17,000, had a population of 22,000,” HRW said.

“Between March and June 2020, the government released 4,208 prisoners under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s amnesty order, but too many remain behind bars to allow for social distancing.”

-0- PANA TZ/VAO 1Sept2020