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Newsday

INMATES at WhaWha Prison outside the Midlands capital, Gweru, enjoyed family week during the Easter holidays where they were visited by friends and relatives.

Although they were grateful for the family visits, the inmates complained that their cells were infested by mosquitos and bedbugs.

Some of the inmates, who  spoke to Southern Eye on the sidelines of the family week, said the bugs were exposing them to health complications.

Prisoners also complained of overcrowding and inadequate water supplies.

“Bedbugs and mosquitoes are causing us sleepless nights,”

an inmate, who requested anonymity, told Southern Eye.

“As for mosquitoes, quite a number of prisoners have been exhibiting flu-like symptoms which we suspect could be malaria. We hope that the authorities will assist us urgently.”

WhaWha medium prison officer-in-charge Superintendent Tinei Isaiah Makeredza however, dismissed the reports of an outbreak of bedbugs and mosquitoes at the prison.

“There is nothing like that happening. We are not experienced such problems,” Makeredza said.

Prison authorities had earlier on promised to take journalists on a tour of the cells, but later changed their minds, saying the inmates were yet to clean-up their living quarters.

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) facilitates family week visits during Easter, Heroes Day and Christmas holidays to allow inmates to meet family members.

An inmate, David Jaravani, said he was happy to meet his daughter after 15 months of his incarceration.

“This is like a dream for me as I have been given a chance to meet my 10-year-old daughter more than a year after I was imprisoned,” Jaravani said.

“I wish these family meetings between inmates and their relatives become regular.”

For some prisoners like 73-year-old Simon Dhemba, it was painful to watch other prisoners mingling with their relatives as no single next of kin has visited him ever since he was thrown into prison.

A recent United States embassy 2021 state of human rights report revealed that the country’s prisons failed to provide adequate food, water, sanitary conditions, or personal protective equipment during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Detainees depended on family members for essential dietary needs. Those without family or community support were forced to rely on other detainees for survival, although in recent years prisoners identified as malnourished have received additional meals.

“Female prisoners were also subjected to harsh conditions with incarcerated mothers sharing food with their children rather than having separate food allocations,” the US embassy report read.

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