By Mary Taruvinga
JAILED Hopewell Chin’ono is surviving only on biscuits and water amid claims prison officials were denying the journalist access to food brought in by his relatives.
This was revealed in court on Wednesday by his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.
The journalist is on remand at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison facing charges of inciting public violence.
He was arrested last month.
On Wednesday, he appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court to make a fresh bail application based on changed circumstances. This comes after he has twice been denied bail by the courts.
Before the hearing, prison officials ordered the truck ferrying Chin’ono and other prisoners to reverse into the court’s holding cells on the basement of the building in apparent attempts to block the media from taking images of their colleague in leg irons.
In court, his lawyer Mtetwa complained that her client had been brought into the court room while still in leg irons. She requested they be removed.
Magistrate Ngoni Nduna ordered their immediate removal telling prison officials that no accused person should be brought into the court room while in leg irons.
Mtetwa said Chin’ono wanted to give evidence over his welfare in remand prison. She told the court the journalist has a special diet but his family was not being permitted to bring him home food except for dried one.
“The authorities are not allowing them (relatives) to bring cooked food and he has been surviving on dry food. He has been surviving on biscuits and water since his arrest,” she said.
“The prison officers themselves have no problems. The problem is that they are being given orders on how to treat our client.
“We are having hard times to see him. Sometimes we are made to wait for over an hour. His relatives have also not seen him for days. They are turned away.”
State prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi challenged the application by Chin’ono to speak on his prison experience arguing the fearless scribe could end up revealing sensitive issues that are a threat to State security.
“The information he may give might be a security threat to the prison officers, fellow inmates and the prison itself so the State applies the case be heard on camera and that the gallery be cleared,” the prosecutor said.
However, Mtetwa insisted that matters of public interest should be heard in an open court.
“Trials particularly of public interest should be public. The judiciary in terms of the Constitution has to operate in a transparent manner,” she said.
The magistrate upheld the State’s contention and the case will be heard on camera until Chin’ono finishes giving evidence.
“The security of prisons is of higher interests than all the other interests and must be respected. Members of the public, the press, and any other people who are not part of the proceedings must, therefore, be excluded in the court until the accused finishes leading evidence,” Magistrate Nduna ruled.