Jestina Mukoko Near Death

The latest news from Zimbabwe is rather shocking. 

As Zimbabweans celebrate the unity between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, Jestina Mukoko, the human rights activist who is languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison is so criticially ill that her lawyers and doctors fear she will not last much longer.

Mukoko, who was denied bail again last week, suffers from chronic illness for which medication must be taken daily.

Last week, after her denial of bail, she and some of her fellow detainees were taken to the Avenue Clinic, the one remaining excellent health facility in Harare (because it is privately run). They arrived at the hospital under heavy Prison guard.

After examination, the medical staff at the private hospital were shocked at the condition of some of them, including Jestina Mukoko and advised that they should be immediately admitted for urgent treatment and round-the-clock observation.

The prison authorities and guards who had accompanied them refused to hear of this. They claimed their instructions were simply to deliver the sick prisoners back to the maximum security prison the same day. The doctors at the private hospital are said to have pleaded with the guards that unless something drastic was done, at least three of the prisoners faced certain death. But the guards would not hear of it.

The group was promptly driven back to Chikurubi where they remain.

The prison is notorious for its conditions, made worse now by the shortage of water, food and medication. The prison hospital, where attempts to treat them have been made before, lacks even the most basic medical facilities and supplies. It apparently does not even have bandages.

Lawyers for the detained say that their torture continues even as Tsvangirai forms a government with Mugabe.

The sad thing is that Tsvangirai, whose party is the alleged beneficiary of Mukoko's "banditry plot", has gone very quiet on the case of Mukoko and her fellow prisoners.

The prisoners include the parents of 2 year old Nigel Mutemagau, who spent weeks in the same Maximum Security Prison and is apparently so traumatised now that he barely speaks.

Tsvangirai had intially refused to go into government with Robert Mugabe until the prisoners were released but he dropped this demand, agreeing to be sworn in as Prime Minister with the prisoners still behind bars at the notorious jail.

Since then, Mukoko's case has all but disappeared from the headlines. Tsvangirai and the MDC have not mentioned her or her fellow abductees (now prisoners) since they announced their capitulation to Mugabe.

Several times now, Zimbabwean judges have ordered that the prisoners, and Mukoko especially, be admitted to hospitals of their choice for treatment, but Mugabe's government has repeatedly ignored these calls.

What surprises me is that all the papers, online publications and rights groups that have been shouting very loudly about human rights abuses and the rule of law and so on, are also now complicit in ignoring the plight of these detainees.

Only this weekend, I was shocked when I rode with a fellow Zimbabwean and the subject of Mukoko came up. My riding companion looked lost when I mentioned that Tsvangirai had abandoned these party supporters.

He asked: "She has been released, hasn't she?"

This is ignorance is understandable since the state media, which is more widely read and watched than any other media in Zimbabwe, has ignored this case and the plight of the prisoners. The independent press, so enamoured of the "breakthrough" in the political crisis, have also not mentioned Mukoko or her fellow detainees in their recent editions. 

The conditions under which the detainees are being held have not changed one bit. They still have no access to their own family members. Doctors Without Borders, the human rights doctors, also say they have been denied access to these prisoners.

Staff at the private hospital are unanimous that the health condition in which they saw Mukoko and her prisoners constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment, especially since access to medication is being denied.

Zimbabwe's prisons are known for inflicting a punishment known as kafiramberi on their inmates. The word, loosely translated, means "Die Forward". This is a reference to the fact that well-known prisoners and those considered "dangerous" are only ever released when they are almost dead and all invariably die within weeks or a couple of months of being released.

Where are the loud voices that we heard even here on the internet before the MDCs agreed to join hands with Mugabe? Where are they now if their concern is the rule of law and human rights? Where are their voices now if they are so concerned about justice in ZImbabwe?

It reinforces my opinion that most of these people you see frothing at the mouth on the internet, spewing obscenties and so on, are all self serving. Nothing more.

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  1. The story is very touching, it is sad. Nobody in a good state of mind wants to see people suffering. However this is a very difficult situation. We know these sick people can be discharged from prison on compassionate grounds. If one is to look again at the issues that led them to be in a situation they are in today, one will be left in a dilemna. I personally have heard these banditry issues not only from gvt sources, some independent sources, away from ZIM, with no much interests in Zim mentioned that way back. There should be some element of truth in them.
    Having seen and gone through the real brutalities of war, I will naturally feel any advocate of such plot should face justice, but again should receive required treatment. I do not wish to see a Laurent NGUNDA or Jonasi Savimbi in Zimbabwe.
    I will personally join hands with anyone who will campaign that the prisoners should be accorded necessary and required treatment, but will distance myself from those who will campaign for unconditional release.If their plot would have succeeded, they would have caused more suffering,. more deaths and worse off situations to many, that what they might be going through.
    I can join an all night vigil for them to be given treatment, and for justice to take its own course.

  2. Thokozile, what nonsense you are expousing. These people are completely innocent. There was no government to overthrow. Mugabe lost in march and Zimbabwe has not had a government since then. The criminals are those who are holding these people without cause. They continue to postpone hearing and trials because they are no charges. Because Morgan is not doing anything about these innocent people he is going to be as guilt as Mugabe very soon. They should be released soon rather than later.

  3. It might appear nonsense to somebody who got no senses to distinguish nonsense from sense.If the March election did not produce a winner, does that mean the country will not have a government? President Mugabe went on to win the run off. If you want to disregard the run off, still then if an election fails to a winner (a president) like what the march election did, the candidate who was the holder of that office of the presidency before and during the election remains the President of the country until a after a run off or another election, and when another President is sworn in. Cde Robert Mugabe remains the President regardless of whichever election result i.e. march or june, one wants to base on. Unless if one wants to live in denial, like anonymous. Its better to have yourself better informed first than to waste space and time with ill informed arguments.
    After all that is not the issue. The elections have nothing to do with the recruitment of people for banditry. We are talking about Jestina Mukoko and others in detention. Whether they are innocent or guilty, that has to be proven by a court. Who are you to judge on their case? How qualified are you to give legal opinion? Unless you can give us the full details, including the investigation, the evidence or lack of it, the prosecution case, then tell us how you arrived at the decision that they are innocent.
    I wish you can join me in calling for treatment to be accorded to her. We can have a strong and sensible case to present to the authorities.

  4. Thanks again Denford. I just would like to add that there are genuine human rights activists that continue to condemn the continued detention of the like's of Jestina Mukoko & Others. People are still disappearing & being beaten at the same rate as they were before the talks & their conclusion. This is just now under reported. What saddens me is that MDC appears to have abandoned these poor people all because of so-called "general public interest" that there is little good in insisting on their release now until they have joined the GNU. I pray that I am wrong, but, once these MDC guys have settled onto the gravy train, there is fat chance you will hear much of people like Ndira, Mukoko & so many others that have suffered at the hands of Zanu PF. We will be forced to wait until the next round of electioneering where they will start reminding us of all this & that. For Zanu PF it will soon be back to business as they start to re-group in preparation of the next elections.

    Thokozile, I think your comments are ill-founded and to be honest I even felt a tinge of anger at reading your second feeble attempt at justifying your intial comment. People like Jestina are being sacrificed at the alter of political expediency first by Zanu PF & now it appears by both MDC's. How you can even suggest a let the law take it's course attitude to this matter is not only in bad taste but smacks of profound ignorance not only of the law but also of the real politics. To borrow your own words: "How qualified are you to give legal opinion?" I am an advocate of free speach, but your opinion not only lacks substance but it also lacks sensitivity to the suffering people of Zimbabwe at the hands of a brutal dictator. Let us not just be commentators for the sake of it comrades. Let us fashion our comments with facts, reason & an understanding of the need to unite for the sake our nation. Chakaipa chakaipa chete (what is bad is still bad) no matter how you choose to decorate it. These people are innocent victims of the sad state of politics & rule of law in Zimbabwe.

  5. this is terrible news.
    I wrote about Jestina when she first went missing. please post any updates you may have on this. she is not the one who needs to be in jail.

    Mugabe Is


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