MDC–T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was yesterday barred from visiting opposition members currently detained at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, with officials telling him to first seek clearance from Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Commissioner-General Paradzai Zimondi.Prison bosses despatched to deal with Tsvangirai’s entourage told MDC-T vice-president Nelson Chamisa, after over 30 minutes of waiting, that the main opposition leader was not an “ordinary Zimbabwean” and could, therefore, not be allowed to visit party members in the prison without clearance.
“They (prison officers) said he could not get in because he is not an ordinary citizen. He needs to have a clearance, but they could not say in terms of what law they used to bar him, only saying it’s an instruction from their bosses,” Chamisa said.
But Tsvangirai said he was unfazed by the order to bar him from visiting nearly 70 inmates remanded in prison for allegedly participating in the recent demonstrations that rocked the country.
“This is obviously unlawful. It’s intended to humiliate. I have come to see our people, like anybody else, and it’s my constitutional right,” Tsvangirai said.
“What clearance am I supposed to seek? But, anyway, we will follow their process, but this is an unusual instruction with the intention of creating confrontation which is not necessary.”
Tsvangirai also said he intended to visit MDC-T councillor Tungamirai Madzokere, Yvonne Musarurwa, Last Maengahama and Phineas Nhatarikwa, who were recently convicted for the murder of a police inspector, Petros Mutedza, at Glen View 3 shopping centre five years ago.
The MDC-T president and former Prime Minister dismissed the conviction as a political judgment, saying he did not understand how five people could have delivered one fatal blow to kill the police officer
Other people, who had brought food for the inmates and those visiting other prisoners, were allowed through without any incident.
Chamisa, who had tried to negotiate with the prison guards, said the instructions by the prison bosses were “foolish” and should not be allowed in a democratic society.
“These are foolish instructions from their bosses who might also be foolish, blatantly unlawful and politically-motivated. What we want to know is why president Tsvangirai is prohibited from visiting his party members who are in prison,” Chamisa said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said the prison authorities were bent on harassing and humiliating Tsvangirai and urged Zimondi to institute a commission of inquiry.
“These rogue and unprofessional prison officers are tainting the image and professional reputation of the country’s prisons and correctional services. They should be severely punished,” he said.
ZPCS spokesperson Superintendent Priscilla Mthembo said she was not aware of the incident and the reason why Tsvangirai had been barred from visiting the inmates while others were allowed.
She then requested questions in writing, but she had not responded to them by the time of going to print.
This came just days after the European Union Parliament passed a resolution demanding that President Robert Mugabe should unconditionally release all political prisoners and create a conducive environment for political dialogue to save Zimbabwe from degenerating into anarchy.
Tsvangirai was accompanied by MDC-T vice-chairperson Morgen Komichi, deputy organising secretary Amos Chibaya and former Labour minister Paurina Mupariwa, among other top party officials.