Applicants' Founding Affidavit in Chawira & 13 Others v Minister of Justice & 2 Others

In the matter between:-

CUTHBERT TAPUWANASHE CHAWIRA

MASIMBA MBAYA

GEORGE MUNYARADZI MANYONGA

JACK SAKALA

LIVISON SITHOLE

JACK NYATHI

BUSANI TSHUMA

KILLIAN MPOFU

WISDOM GOCHERA

EZRA MANENJI

KUDAKWASHE TAONANGWERE

FARAYI LAWRENCE NDLOVU

GOVERNOR MUSAWAIRE

LYTHON MATHE

vs

MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL & PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS

THE COMMISSIONER OF PRISONS & CORRECTIONAL SERVICES

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL

 

FIRST APPLICANT’S FOUNDING AFFIDAVIT

I, CUTHBERT TAPUWANASHE CHAWIRA do hereby make oath and state that:-

I am the First Applicant in this matter.  The facts I depose hereto are fully within my knowledge and to the best of my belief true and correct.  To the extent that I make many averments of law and research, I do so, on the basis of advice from counsel which advice I fully accept. 

THE ACTORS

I was born on the 20th of January 1970.  I am currently a death row prisoner incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.  My Prison Number is 641/13. 

I was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by Malaba J as he then was on the 26th of September 2000 after having been arrested on the 6th of October 1999.  I have thus spent 15 years on death row.  I confirm that I am married with a wife who since has moved on.  I have three children the oldest who is 19 years. 

The brief facts of the murder I was involved in was that I was involved in an armed robbery with others, which resulted in the death of the manager then at Fairmile Motel in Gweru.  The actual murder was committed by an accomplice of mine but I was convicted on the basis of the doctrine of common purpose. 

The 2nd Applicant Masimba Mbaya, is currently a prisoner incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.  He was arrested in 1998 and convicted and sentenced to death by Justice Guvava on the 30th of April 2004 following a murder during the course of armed robbery that took place in Bromley, Ruwa. 

The 2nd to the 14th Applicants are all death row prisoners serving at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.  I provide their full details in respect of their names, age, date of arrest, date of sentence, sentence, CRB Number, Court, number of years incarcerated, number of years on death row in the following schedule.

 

P/No

Name

Age

Offence

D.O.A

D.O.S

Sentence

CRB

Court

No of years incarcerated

No. Of years on death row

641/13

George Manyonga

40

Murder

22.06.95

21.02.97

Death

23345

H/Court/Hre

20

18

644/13

Jack Sakala

34

Murder

14.01.00

15.02.01

Death

02/01

H/Court/Hre

15

14

645/13

Livison Sithole

37

Murder

19.01.01

28.02.1

Death

10/01

H/Court/Mtre

14

14

646/13

Jack Nyathi

40

Murder

27.12.00

13.02.01

Death

05/01

H/Court/Byo

15

14

647/13

Busani Tshuma

41

Murder

27.03.00

01.02.02

Death

94-6/01

H/Court/Gweru

15

13

648/13

Killion Mpofu

35

Murder

25.01.01

30.05.02

Death

30/02

H/Court/Gweru

14

13

649/13

Wisdom Gochera

39

Murder

21.09.01

27.06.02

Death

112/02

H/Court/Hre

14

13

650/13

Ezra Manenji

63

Murder

21.01.12

08.02.13

Death

30/13

H/Court/Byo

3

2

659/14

Masimba Manenji

 

Murder

21.11.98

30.04.04

Death

18/2000

H/Court/Hre

17

11

660/14

Taonangwere Kudakwashe

23

Murder

07.03.03

08.07.05

Death

4227/03

H/Court/Hre

12

10

634/14

Governor Musawaire

43

Murder

29.05.04

29.04.06

Death

216/04

H/Court/Hre

11

9

633/14

Lython Mathe

35

Murder

09.12.09

15.07.11

Death

101/11

H/Court/Byo

6

4

 

Our address for the purpose of this action is care of our legal practitioners of record Tendai Biti Law from 28 Rowland Square, Milton Park, Harare.

The First Respondent, the Minister of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs, is a Minister duly appointed by the President in terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.    He is the Minister responsible for the Administration of the Prisons Act [Chapter 7:11] and he is also cited in that he is also the Minister responsible for administering the Constitution of Zimbabwe. His address for service is 6th Floor, Block A, New Government Complex, Central Avenue, Harare.

The Second Respondent is the Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services.  He is appointed by the President in terms of the Prison’s Act [Chapter 7:11].  He is cited as such as an interested party who may wish to make comments on the present application.  His address for service is care of Prisons Headquarters, Mbuya Nehanda Street, Harare.

The Third Respondent is the Attorney General of Zimbabwe appointed as such in terms of Section 114 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.  As the Attorney General, he has a direct interest in this matter and is therefore cited as such for this reason.  His address for service is care of 4th Floor, Block A, New Government Complex, Central Avenue, Harare.

CAUSE OF ACTION

As the above schedule will show, the majority of us the Applicants, have been incarcerated for periods that range from 6 years to 20 years and we have been on death row for periods that range from 4 years to 18 years. 

It is our respectful contention that subjecting us to such a lengthy period on death row, results in permanent stress, constant fear, resulting in extreme physical psychological and emotional harm. 

Our contention in this matter is that we are entitled to the right to human dignity protected by Section 51 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.  In addition we are entitled to protection from torture or cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  We contend that subjecting us to lengthy periods of imprisonment, amounts to a breach of our right to human dignity and our right not to be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

This is thus a constitutional application which we bring in our own names and right on the basis that our constitutional rights protected by Section 51 and Section 53 of the Constitution have been breached.  That being so because of the torture we have been subjected to whilst waiting for a long time on death row, it will be unconstitutional to execute us and therefore our sentence should now be committed to that of life imprisonment. 

 

LOCUS STANDI

We bring the instant application in terms of Section 85 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.  We are acting in our own individual interest.  We also believe that our court action is in the interest of the public and therefore meets fully the requirements of Section 85 (1) (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. 

CONDITIONS IN ZIMBABWEAN PRISONS

Zimbabwean prisons, are a torture and are unbearable. 

Before dealing with our conditions in death row prison, I wish to state that at all the prisons in Zimbabwe and certainly those that I have been to namely Hwahwa prison, Harare Central Prison, Chikurubi Maximum Prison and Harare Remand Prison are deplorable. 

Prisoners sleep on the floor as there are no beds. There are little or no adequate blankets so during the winter period prisoners are subjected to serious assaults from the cold weather. 

In addition all the above prisoners suffer from the challenges of inadequate food.  There are periods in respect of which we have been subjected to less than one meal a day consisting largely of sadza and water coloured with some spices.  Most of the time we are subjected to a meal comprising vegetables and beans.  The diet is not balanced at all and is not sufficient to afford proper dignity to a prisoner. 

Of greater concern too is that in these prisons the health facilities are inadequate.  The State and prison authorities cannot provide adequate drugs.  Some of the prisoners suffer from high blood pressure others from different forms of diabetic including diabetic A.  Yet the prisons cannot supply the adequate medicine and a lot of prisoners are dying in prison cells. 

The prisons are cold and lifeless.  There are just massive pillars of grey with a little natural light.  At Harare Remand for instance most of the prisoners are kept in Block C which is a block on the second floor designed to look after at least 40 prisoners but at any given time, there are over 300 prisoners in Block C alone. 

Those like myself charged with the serious offences were kept in private cells.  As a D Class Prisoner I was kept in a tiny little cell which I shared with other 5 inmates.  We could hardly move and breath in that prison whose area of space was 1.5 by 3 metres.

There are no bathrooms or toilets in these little cells and as prisoners we used as a toilet, a 20 litre plastic container we called ‘gamashura’.

It is this container that has to carry our waste and every day we have the embarrassment of carrying it two stairs down to the public toilets in the ground floor.

There are  no newspapers or tissues in these toilets and sometimes prisoners resort to using the Bible as toilet roll.

Prisons gates are opened at 7 am to allow those that will be going to Remand Court to go and report.  We are then locked up around 4 pm when the lights are switched off.  However if the truck carrying prisoners from Remand has not yet arrived, we have to wait for the same before we are locked up in.

The worst days in prison are the weekends.  Because there are no prisoners going to Court, you are locked up as early as 3 pm in the afternoon.  On weekends, you are subjected bodily searches.  All of you are called up on a Sunday morning and are made to crouch in a courtyard.  Thereinafter you are asked to totally undress and then walk back to your cell naked in front of everyone else.  This is degrading.

Food in prison is as horrible as it is regularly unavailable  Prisoners can go for weeks feeding on sadza without any gravy but just water interfered with some cooking powder.  There is malnourishment and lot of the prisoners are dying of hunger from opportunistic diseases that are benefiting from weak immune systems.

DEATH ROW CONDITIONS

If conditions are bad for general prisoners I maintain that there are worst for prisoners on death row.  We the prisoners on death row are in a prison within another prison. 

From 2000 to 2013, I was housed at Harare Central Prison.  Harare Central Prison, is the only prison in Zimbabwe specifically designed for death row prisoners. 

However, in 2013, there were more than 70 prisoners on death row with the result that 14 of us were then transferred to Harare Remand Prison where I am currently incarcerated. 

The Prisons Act [Chapter 7:11] defines in Part XVlll how condemned prisoners are to be treated.  Section 106 makes it clear that every prisoner sentenced to death shall be confined in some safe place within a prison and, if possible, shall be kept apart from other prisoners and shall be placed under constant observation both by day and by night.

Section 107 denies, the right of any person to visit the same save where permission has been granted by the Commissioner.

In Zimbabwe, from experience, the above are taken literally. 

At Harare Remand Prison, condemned prisoners are confined in little tiny cells that measure approximately 2 metres by 3.5 metres.  The reality being that, one’s stretched arm can easily touch the other walls.

The light is kept constantly on and there is constantly supervision in these cells. 

There is a single window high up the grey walls of the prison which hardly admits any light as it is and is several metres high. 

At Harare Central Prison, as at Chikurubi, we are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day and are only allowed out for exercise at intervals of 30 minutes per session in the morning and in the afternoon. 

Further, at Harare Central Prison, there are no toilets in our little cells and we have to use the ‘gamashura’ container referred to above.  At least at Chikurubi Maximum Prison there is a little toilet inside but however it cannot be flashed from inside or outside and we have to use buckets of water to clean our mess. 

 

Until recently the only book allowed in the prison cells was the bible.  Now, we are now allowed to have access to books censored and approved by the prison authorities.  

There are no newspapers or television although at Chikurubi Maximum Prison we are now allowed the benefit of a little radio. 

Our meals at Chikurubi are three meals per day.  However the meals are horrible consisting largely of sadza and vegetables and sometimes with beans.  In tough times we have sadza with the boiled water that euphemistically can be called gravy. 

The physical conditions are thus tough.  A lot of the prisoners, whether on death row or not die.  The First Respondent has the figures and I would urge him to provide the same before this Honourable Court. 

The physical pain caused by confinement in prison is horrendous.  The physical pain caused by being in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day is unbearable. 

However the greatest suffering of death row prisoners is psychological.  My colleagues and I are nervous and anxious.  Many of us suffer from severe paranoia as well as systematic headaches. 

Quite a few of us, are definitely suffering from psychiatric and bipolar challenges and I would urge the authorities to cause examinations of all of us.  I have no doubt that the following fellow inmates, need urgent psychiatric evaluation.  That is to say Killian Mpofu, Lython Mathe and Livison Sithole.  I am not a medical expert, however, I live with the above named inmates and I have absolutely no doubt from the way they speak and their behaviour that they have been affected mentally. 

The conditions in our prisons are tough and they have had a serious effect on prisoners’ health.   The mortality rate of prisoners is very high.  Tens of prisoners are dying every year.  In my own case, I was tried with four other accused persons but they are all now late. 

 

The frequency of prison deaths of our comrades really affects us and compounds the degraded mental condition that we suffer from. 

The psychological effect on death row, called the death row syndrome, is unbearable.  There is no question that adverse psychological processes are associated with our incarceration which from my experience include the following:-

A sense of helplessness and defeat;

A sense of wide spread, hopeless and mental fatigue accompanying a perception of helpless vulnerability;

Emotional emptiness characterised by loneliness and a deadening of feelings for yourself and others

A decline in mental and physical acuity.

Most of us have become chronically unstable, with fluctuating moods and recurrent depression along with the severe deterioration or mental incapability including slowness, confusion forgetfulness and lethargy.

The prison conditions are bleak and are characterised by rigid security, isolation limited movement and austere conditions.  To put it differently, we are subjected to dehumanising and debilitating conditions.

The greatest challenge in prison, is the fear associated with the knowledge that you are never going to get out and you will be executed.  The knowledge that there is no parole and hope in many of us whose automatic appeals to the Supreme Court have been dismissed. 

There is nothing as challenging to a human being as living a life without hope.  Most of us have no hope that we will live and we are just sitting in dark waiting to be executed. 

 

At Harare Central Prison executions were carried out during my time there.  The following executions took place at the time that I was at Harare Central Prison of prisoners that I knew namely Zuda Chimuchenga, Joshua Nyamazana (who came from Gokwe), Antony Muuzhe, Chidhumo, Masendeke, Elias Chauke and a prisoner know as Bigboy. 

The last execution if I recall, took place in 2005 and involved Mandhla Masina.  I knew all these prisoners personally.  We had stayed together for many years. 

The challenge with execution is that none of the prisoners have any idea who the next one will be.  Thus during the night, which is the period where those to be executed are taken away we hardly sleep. 

In addition if we see any unusual behaviour on the part of the prison guards we freeze and enter into psychological trauma. 

After an execution we go for days without eating or feeling anything or being able asleep. 

Indeed I can bring to the court’s attention that there were days during those days when executions were so frequent.  We caused commotion and literally fought with the prison guards on the basis that there were feeding us, and pretending to be nice to us but meanwhile there were plotting to remove us and execute us. 

The prison guards themselves, used to play us up and threaten us with execution.  There is no greater psychological threat than what we went through. 

 

Being in prison as well puts a toil on members of our families.  In my own case my wife left and only my children come to visit me only on holidays. 

I must say that we are allowed visitors for duration of 15 minutes each after two weeks but most of us do not receive visitors. 

Society has written us off and no one considers us as human beings. 

We are the hidden sore of a very conflicted society.

We are not normal people and the only think that has kept us going, is the fact that we have all converted to Christianity and survive by praying and the faith that only our lord will save us. 

Our favourite verse is Isaiah 43 v 25 which reads as follows:-

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more”

What is unfair to us is that unlike other countries where there are serious killers and hardened criminals all of us without exception are not hardened seasoned criminals.  We committed crimes virtually on the spare of the moment. 

Under ordinary circumstances we would therefore deserve a second chance.  It is our contention that perhaps there ought to be some form of judicial review to consider our cases. 

I cannot find words to express to this Honourable Court the physical effect of confinement on death row and the psychological effect of confinement on death row.  What I can say to this Honourable Court is that yes we committed crimes which we are sorry of but no one in this world must be put on death row and that capital punishment itself must be abolished.  It is backward and antiquated and has no relation to the human rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

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