Zimbabwe prisons okay Chamisa jail visit, set tough conditions

HARARE – Zimbabwe prison authorities have finally given in to pressure by CCC leader Nelson Chamisa to be allowed to visit jailed lieutenants Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole at Chikurubi Maximum Prison but set tough conditions for the opposition chief to abide by while in the precincts of the country’s biggest jail.

This comes after Chamisa, through his lawyers, had confronted Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) boss Moses Chihobvu with a 24-hour ultimatum to allow him access to his comrades as was guaranteed by the country’s laws, or face a suit.

Chamisa was forced to turn to his lawyers Shava Law Chambers after prison authorities recently blocked him from visiting the party legislators.

But in a new development, ZPCS Chief Director Legal Resources and Corporate Affairs Commissioner Willy Risilo wrote back saying the opposition leader can finally visit but under strict conditions.

“Please be advised that authority has been granted for your client Mr Nelson Chamisa to visit members of his political party incarcerated in our prisons,” wrote Risilo in a letter dated 18 October.

“The approval for your client Mr Nelson Chamisa was given with some restrictions. He is required to notify the officer in charge of his intended visit in advance and the specific times.

“He shall not chant slogans anywhere near the prisons and is forbidden from addressing any persons anywhere near the prisons.

“You may liaise with the respective officers in charge who may place further restrictions in the interests of good order and security.”

Commissioner Risilo cited Section 129 of the Prisons (General) Regulations, 1996 (Statutory Instrument I of 1996 which he said mandated prison authorities to eavesdrop into a prisoner’s conversation with a visitor.

“Further, section 129 of the same regulations provides that all visits shall take place within sight and hearing of a prison officer and at such times and places as the Officer in Charge may determine.

“Further, a prisoner shall not be visited by more than three visitors at one visit and the visit shall not last longer than thirty minutes,” he said.

In denying him permission to visit his lieutenants, prison guards had told the popular politician he was specifically barred from visiting anyone in prison detention without written permission.

But lawyers challenged the ban arguing that this violated Zimbabwean laws which say that any person who is detained, including a convicted prisoner, has a right to communicate with, and be visited by a relative or anyone else of their choice, subject to reasonable restrictions which may be imposed for the proper administration of prisons or places of detention.

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