People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, Tendai Biti, on Tuesday paid a solidarity visit to 11 Africa Unity Square activists who were recently arrested on their 14th day of protests against President Robert Mugabe.
Biti was accompanied by Willas Madzimure, the PDP Secretary for International Affairs.
The activists are in custody at the Harare Remand Prison and Chikurubi Women’s Prison where they are being held for allegedly robbing two women at Africa Unity Square.
They were part of the 15 young protesters who were arrested last week after camping in the square since the turn of the month, accusing Mugabe of running down the country and demanding the immediate resignation of his entire cabinet.
They were slapped with a $1000 bail each, a decision that shocked lawyers and human rights defenders who accused the courts of being used to derail the campaign that is supposed to end tomorrow by keeping the occupation leadership away from the other protesters.
Biti, according to a PDP statement, met with the demonstrators’ coordinator, Linda Masarira, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Pride Mkono, Pamela Mawire, Makomborero Haruzivishe, Irene Takavada, Shadreck Dhliwayo and Brian Kansunzuma.
“The activists complained about the lack of food as the prison officials were denying visitors (the opportunity) to bring them food from outside the prison complex citing health reasons,” said PDP.
Zimbabwean prisons are considered sub-human because of severe food shortages, overcrowding, poor access to health facilities and disease outbreaks.
Biti received complaints from the activists who told him that they were being forced to buy food items from within at more than double the price in retail shops.
The said a $1.20 Coke drink was being sold for $4 while mineral water normally costing 75 cents was going for double the price, just a stone’s throw away from the police training institution, Morris Depot.
“These astronomical prices…were forcing most of the inmates to go hungry most of the time as prison food was inadequate and poorly prepared,” said PDP, which reported that the occupiers vowed to push the Zanu PF government out of power.
“Biti urged the activists to remain focused and strong despite the attempts by Zanu PF to use State machinery to clamp down on opposition forces,” added the opposition party.
Biti, a lawyer, promised that he would ensure that the activists were released urgently.
Meanwhile, African Youth, a pressure group, and the Young African Leaders Forum (YALF) have called for the release of the protesters.
“The Young African Leaders Forum appeals to the government of Zimbabwe to release Linda and other activists whilst granting a listening ear to their demand to get a better life,” said African Youth in a statement.
Said YALF president, Prince Ifoh: “Why on earth should someone trying to contribute to the development of a nation through dialogue be arrested?