By Hopewell Chin’ono
Today Job Sikhala woke up at 5.30 AM from the cold concrete floor that he has been sleeping on since his persecution and incarceration at Chikurubi Maximum Security prison four weeks ago.
He is not a convicted prisoner, but the vindictive nature of the regime sent him to a prison meant for convicted prisoners, where he is shackled in leg irons and handcuffs like a dangerous and convicted criminal.
Job Sikhala is a member of parliament in Zimbabwe and an officer of the High Court just like all registered lawyers, his only crime is calling for the end of corruption in Zimbabwe!
His prison cell is meant to house ONLY 16 prison inmates, but like all other prison cells at Chikuribi prison, it is packed with 42 prisoners, and only has one toilet with NO running water for those 42 men.
At times it can have more prisoners, I know so because I shared the same cell with Job Sikhala.
At one point they wanted to bring more inmates so that we would end up around 75 for that night!
This is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic which requires social distancing, but not at Chikurubi prison!
Sikhala and the other prisoners are locked up in this prison cell for 17 hours daily!
If you fall sick during these 17 hours, you won’t get any practical medical help at all.
Many die quietly and the nation never gets to know how life evolves in these prisons because of lack of transparency!
After waking up at 5.30 AM, Sikhala joins other prisoners downstairs in section B of the Chikurubi prison where they get porridge without sugar in it or anything else for breakfast.
Down there they will be around 500 prisoners in section B, yet they only have 2 toilets for use, YES, two toilets for 500 prisoners from the 12 cells in section B.
There is NO running water in the downstairs section just like in the cells, there are only 2 toilets for 500 people.
When I left Chikurubi two weeks ago, they had NO COVID-19 masks, a direct consequence of the LOOTING of public funds and plunder of national resources which I had reported on in June and July leading to my arrest!
At 10.30 AM, Job Sikhala and his fellow inmates are given lunch which comes in old dirty wheelie bins!
It will be badly cooked Sadza and boiled beans with no cooking oil or anything else, just boiled beans with water.
Resembling a concentration camp, prisoners are asked to go on “Foreign” which is a lining up of prisoners.
“Foreign” is a bastardization of “Falling In” where the prisoners sit down in lines of 5 if they are in the cell, or more if they are downstairs! They have no soap, they have no running water-NOTHING.
As a journalist being in prison was a front-row seat which allowed me to see how the regime has failed to run even a mere prison!
Lunch comes at 13.30 for Job Sikhala and his fellow inmates again brought in the dirty wheelie bins. This time it is the badly cooked Sadza with boiled cabbages.
This is the dietary routine every day all year round. They get NO meat although the prison dietary book says that they are meant to eat meat 8 times a week.
This is what happens when the State and government are being daily looted without legal consequence for the crooks and looters!
At 1500 hrs, Job and his fellow inmates are locked up in their cell for the night, where for the next 17 hours they will be sitting and sleeping on the concrete floor with torn blankets heavily infested with lice.
Job is being punished because the State and the regime know that he has NO case in a proper court of law before an honest magistrate or judge!
So the regime has been punishing its critics using the office of a man called Thabani Vusa Mpofu (not the advocate), who is supposed to be an anti-corruption prosecutor in Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office. He is the one behind the persecution of Mnangagwa’s critics and political rivals!
It is so shameless that our cases which are supposedly criminal are being brought before the Anti-Corruption Courts, that is how the regime is abusing the judiciary!
Instructions are given not to give bail, and like in my case, I started serving prison time without a conviction as a form of punishment!!
Denial of bail and a delay in pronouncing bail rulings is meant to make sure that you are punished without trial.
When Job’s lawyers come to see him at the prison, he is shackled in leg irons, a form of humiliation!
But like myself, Job understood that today is a sideshow, what matters is the ending of corruption and looting and not our individual punishment!
The citizens should focus on ending corruption which has destroyed the country, they should also stand in solidarity with Job Sikhala because his fight against corruption is for the citizens not just for himself and his family.
Today Job and his fellow prison inmates as they are locked up in section B of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison have NO soap to wash their hands, NO running water for toilets or for drinking.
The only water they have comes in jugs and 20-litre containers which are then shared amongst the prisoners for the next 24 hours!
Many prisoners use bible pages when they go to the toilet, the prison fails to even provide toilet paper. When it rarely comes, it really feels like a Christmas moment for the prisoners, that is how low Zimbabwe has sunk!
Job is NOT a convicted prisoner, but he is being treated worse than one, and all Zimbabwean citizens have been able to say is #FreeJobSikhala #ZimbabweBelongsToAll
So whilst you follow comedians on social media in your millions, remember that there is Job Sikhala languishing in Mnangagwa’s jail at Chikurubi Maximum Prison for fighting for YOUR rights to have a corruption-free government.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning journalist who has been in detention at Chiburubi Maximum Prison for 45 days