The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) yesterday dismissed claims by MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa that he was barred from visiting his party’s incarcerated deputy chair Job Sikhala.
ZPCS bosses said the allegations were baseless as everything was done within the confines of the law.
Sikhala, who was freed from custody on $5 000 bail by the Masvingo High Court yesterday, was remanded at Masvingo Remand Prison by a Bikita magistrate after his initial court appearance last week following his arrest for subverting a constitutional Government.
Mr Chamisa told his supporters at Mucheke Stadium on Sunday that prison authorities barred him from visiting Sikhala.
He further said besides being the MDC-Alliance leader, he was also a qualified lawyer, alleging that authorities violated Sikhala’s rights by preventing visitors from seeing him.
ZPCS Masvingo public relations officer, Assistant Principal Prisons and Correctional Officer Stanslous Sanike said visitors were allowed to see Sikhala during his stay in custody. He accused Mr Chamisa of wanting to be accorded special treatment, insisting that the prisons authority did not discriminate when it comes to visiting inmates.
“Yes, he (Mr Chamisa) was denied the chance to visit Sikhala because the latter had already exceeded the number of visitors per week,” said Mr Sanike.
“According to Statutory Instrument 1 of 1996, Section 124 Subsection 1(b) states that, “Every prisoner is permitted to receive visitors in such reasonable numbers in the interest of maintaining good order and security at the prison.”
Mr Sanike said even according to Prisons Commissioner General Standing Orders Section 138 Subsection 1, the officer-in-charge of a prison is empowered to use his discretion to allow a prisoner in remand to be visited, depending on the place and time.
Mr Sanike said before Mr Chamisa visited the prison on Sunday, Sikhala had seen his legal team and other unidentified relatives.
“He (Mr Chamisa) maybe have wanted special treatment by virtue of his position, but we do not discriminate when it comes to visiting prisoners, we simply follow the law,” he said.
“We need to give all the inmates a chance to receive visitors, and one prisoner cannot enjoy special treatment compared to the others, we treat all our inmates equally and Sikhala had already received enough visitors on the day in question.”
Observers accused Mr Chamisa of grandstanding and trying to gain cheap political points by blaming Government for his visit which was outside the stipulation of the law.
Mr Chamisa and his party threw Sikhala under the bus by disassociating themselves from his statements when he told his party’s rally in Bikita East over a week ago that his party would overthrow President Mnangagwa before 2023.