Bulawayo quarantine inmates cry foul amid over-detention

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

COVID-19 quarantined inmates at Bulawayo Polytechnic have accused authorities at the centre of detaining them beyond the mandatory 21 days.

They are part of hundreds of returning residents who are being placed on compulsory 21-day quarantine as part of government’s measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Most returning residents are from South Africa, UK and Botswana.

Inmates who spoke to Sunday also complained over what they described as appalling living conditions at the isolation centre.

“I have been detained at this place since May 10 when I arrived from Botswana. Since my arrival, I was only tested on the 22nd of May and my results were negative.

“Following the outcome of our results as well as the expiry of the mandatory 21 days, we were supposed to have been released but the process was further delayed because one of inmates tested positive,” said an inmate who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

The inmate said he and some of his colleagues were tested again on Friday.

He said of the 290 inmates at the centre, only 40 people were tested.

The inmate also complained about the living conditions at the place.

“Conditions here are not fit for a normal human being.

“The food is horrible and inadequate. Last time I had to call my brother from Harare to bring me food because I was starving. Whenever we try to raise our complaints, we are threatened,” he added.

Another inmate who also refused to be named made similar claims of being over-detained.

“I have almost clocked three months at this place and nobody has bothered to explain to us what is happening.

“We understand the people whom we checked in together, in Harare and other centres have already been released. We have families to look after and there is no point of keeping us here suffering,” he said.

There are also reports that some inmates at the United College of Education have also overstayed.

The inmates have been staging daily demonstrations at the centre in protest over the conditions.

Government has been struggling to avail test kits, something that has seen returnees overstay in quarantine centres dotted around the country amid food shortages and other challenges.

When reached for comment, Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Judith Ncube confirmed some inmates have indeed overstayed at Bulawayo Polytechnic.

“The PMD has briefed me that there are inmates who have spent 28 days because when they were about to be released, one of their colleagues tested positive so they were told to remain for another eight days,” she said.