Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono is being treated just like any other prisoner during these difficult times, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has said.

Hopewell’s lawyer, Ms Beatrice Mtetwa has said she feared that Hopewell could be poisoned in jail. She was also fuming after he was shackled and transferred to Chikurubi without her knowledge.

ZPCS spokesperson Supt Meya Khanyezi said :“The Commissioner General is empowered to make standing orders and it is in terms of these standing orders that certain categories of prisoners can only have visitors within sight and hearing of prison officers. Transfer of inmates from one prison to another is entirely an administrative issue. ZPCS is not obligated to inform an inmate’s lawyers.

“The decision to suspend the visits was taken with the interest of offenders at heart. It is not a punitive measure but a temporary preventive action meant to ensure that the incarcerated are protected from the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected and killed a number of people worldwide. Although we have recorded cases in Beitbridge, Plumtree, Masvingo, Whawha and Bulawayo we have since put measures to curb the continuous spread of the disease in our prisons.

“This was not a decision we arrived at lightly, as we understand and recognise the importance of family contact with the prison population. Our primary concern has to be public safety and reducing the number of people who enter our facilities is a key factor in limiting the potential spread of this illness into our prisoner population. The department will continue to monitor the situation to determine when visits will be restored.”

“As ZPCS we also ensure that during the Covid-19 pandemic the human rights of all those who remain in detention are upheld while taking the specific needs of the most vulnerable detainees, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and juvenile detainees into account. Any restrictions imposed on detainees should be non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent”.

Both Ngarivhume and Chin’ono are being treated just as any other intimates, the prisons spokesperson said.