PRO-DEMOCRACY activist Linda Masarira, who was in remand prison for 82 days, says her incarceration was a blessing for female prisoners as she ended up fighting for their rights and insisting that they are treated as human beings.
Masarara was arrested in July while staging a protest against the government at a park in Harare. She went on to spend months in remand prison as the lower courts refused her bail.
Last week the High Court ordered her release, saying the continued detention “was unjustified and illegal”.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Linda said the government was mistaken to think it would silence her by removing her from the streets.
New cause at Chikurubi
“I was always at loggerheads with the Officer-in-Charge at Chikurubi Female Prison,” she said.
“When I arrived she (prison officer) told me kuti iwewe unotonga panze not muno (you can rule the streets but not inside my prison)”.
Living conditions at the facility “are actually terrible” and the treatment of prisoners is the same as during the “Smith regime whereby female prisoners stripped of their dignity and routinely subjected to degrading treatment”.
“I ended up speaking for those who couldn’t speak for themselves and I actually feel great and honoured that I managed to make a difference for female prisoners in Chikurubi Female Prison,” she said.
I was always in the office of the Officer-in-Charge questioning her about what was going on. This place is supposed to be a correctional service, but from the treatment we are getting there is nothing correctional about it.
“Those facing murder charges are referred to derogatory terms such as ‘iwe mhondi huya pano’ (murderer, come here).”
She added: “What is even more shocking is that prisoners on remand are actually given duties as if they have already been convicted and sentenced to hard labour.
“They are made to go and fetch water in a sewer pond without even wearing shoes, but I led the protests and this was stopped.
“I fear that now that am out they have resorted back to old system of treating remand prisoners.”
On whether she will join ongoing protests against the government, Linda said she was not cowed by her spell in prison.
“I am now back with a new narrative of doing things,” she explained.
“Look, the State has decided to unleash reign of terror on protestors. So I came out with a new idea because we have to change the way we are doing things
“Demos are failing; people are being beaten up, tortured and maimed. Activists are being abducted, so should we continue with the same strategy? NO.
Linda was arrested on the 6th July and detained at Chikurubi Maximum Prison after she was denied bail by a Mbare magistrate.
She was charged with “obstructing or endangering the free movement of persons or vehicles” during the #ShutdownZim2016 anti-government protests.
Last week High Court judge, Justice David Mangota ordered her release on bail