Jenni Williams and Magodonga were finally released from Mlondolozi Prison at 9:30 am today, three weeks to the day they were arrested. Their bail had been paid yesterday evening but prison authorities would not allow them to be released, saying the prison administration was closed and it too late.
They are in fair health, suffering from lice infections and needing to visit the doctor but otherwise okay.
They bring with them horror stories of prison conditions and treatment in both Bulawayo (Grey Street) and Mlondolozi Prisons. For the first two weeks, the activists were in the remand cell in Yard One, which is according to prison regulations. Their treatment took a bad turn last week Wednesday when Magodonga was moved into the yard inhabited by dangerous prisoners, both on remand and convicted. Yard Two also accommodates 15 mental health patients. She was put in a cell with a patient that is allowed to wander around naked and was moved from Ingutsheni Mental Health Hospital for murder. She was unable to sleep at night due to the antics of this and other patients.
The extreme hunger experienced by most prisoners means that even orange peels and the scraps on dirty plates are fought over. There is also no privacy for the female prisoners. Male prison guards are allowed to wander around the female prison and can see into washing facilities. Prisoners in Yard Two are also stripped naked every day for inspection by prison officers as they are locked down. At least three minors (aged 15 and 16) were being kept in the same cell as Williams.
Williams and Mahlangu will appear for a routine remand in Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court on Monday 10th November.
WOZA is delighted that the state’s petty attempt to pervert justice has finally been overruled and looks forward to challenging these farcical charges. WOZA would also like to thank Kossam Ncube and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for their support and their determination to secure the release of Jenni and Magodonga.
Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu would also like to thank everyone who lobbied for their release, sent messages of solidarity and kept them in their thoughts and prayers. Solidarity from friends inside the country and around the world went a long way to ensuring that their time in Mlondolozi Prison was made more bearable. They are in good spirits and looking forward to continuing the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.