HARARE – Two more prisoners have died bringing the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison food riot death toll to five.
This comes after prisoners at Zimbabwe’s biggest jail ran riot last Friday demanding a change of diet resulting in a massive demonstration. Eight prisoners were admitted to hospital with severe injuries, having been shot in raging gun battles.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services deputy commissioner general, Agrey Machingauta confirmed that one inmate died at the prison complex while another died at Parirenyetwa Hospital. But the figures being released are not adding up with allegations that a huge cover up is now underway to under-report the deaths.
‘The inmate who died at Chikurubi was found dead in the hall and investigations are underway while the bodies have been taken to Parirenyatwa hospital mortuary for post mortem,” Machingauta said.
Reports on Sunday however indicated that up to 10 inmates were shot dead during the riots by over 900 prisoners at the correctional facility.
On Sunday Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services spokesperson Elizabeth Banda confirmed three deaths. Dennis Aramu who was serving 29 years for breaching the firearms act, Pedzisai Nota (40) who was serving 27 years for armed robbery and Titus Mandikonza. Nota and Mandikonza died at Parirenyatwa Hospital.
Banda said five inmates were still admitted together with two prison officers following the mayhem that started after inmates refused to have sadza with vegetables for lunch.
A source who spoke to Nehanda Radio said “1 prisoner died on Friday….2 died at Parirenyantwa on Saturday….then the other 2 died on Sunday….(one at Chikurubi and the other one at the hospital. But amongst the guards everyone is saying 10 died.”
According to Machingauta last week on Friday, a group of five prisoners set blankets on fire as they mobilised their colleagues to join in a riot over relish. The fire then spread to the ceiling on the staircase as all hell broke loose at the correctional facility.
“The inmates then started assaulting prison guards. Reinforcements were called in from police support unit and the Zimbabwe National Army. Security forces were forced to use firearms to bring the situation under control. Investigations into the disturbances are underway,” he said.
Sources said valuable property was destroyed by fire in the melee while gun fights ran for hours as armed prisoners briefly took control of the situation before reinforcements were called in.
The prisoners had disarmed prison guards who had to call reinforcements from the police, army and Central Intelligence Organisation after the situation got out of control.
This is the first known prison riot in Zimbabwe.