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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