Harare court ends SA pair’s unlawful 9 month detention nightmare

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE High Court has ordered the immediate release of two South African women who have been languishing at Chikurubi Female Prison for the past nine months without any trial.

The two, Zakiti Mbane and Mpho Mkonza, were released by Harare High Court judge, Owen Tagu following a successful application by their lawyer Brian Hungwe.

This comes after their families back home have been going through a hard time searching for them, even visiting mortuaries and cemeteries in the belief they may have died.

The families only got their relief when Hungwe phoned them to try and establish their nationality after South African authorities had disowned the pair while claiming they were from Swaziland.

Justice Tagu also ordered the immigration department to fund the foreign pair for having caused its detention after having lost its travelling documents.

“The first and second respondents are hereby ordered to release the applicants from Chikurubi Maximum Female Prison forthwith,” he ruled, adding that all the respondents should jointly ensure that the two got back home safely.

Mbane and Mkonza are also reported to be having some mental health challenges, something that is also linked to the loss of their travelling documents.

After losing their passports, they handed themselves to the police who further posted them to the immigration authorities.

The immigration department then caused their detention at Chikurubi Female Prison where they were held without a charge or trial for nine months.

In his ruling, Justice Tagu said the decision to detain them was in violation of the two’s “fundamental rights and unlawful.”

In his submissions, the duo’s lawyer, Hungwe, told court that his clients were abused beyond explanation.

“Since the applicants’ detention at Chikurubi, they have been labouring in mental anguish, isolated from other prisoners, in a tiny prison cell, adjacent to the main prison complex housing hundreds other prisoners at Chikurubi Female Complex,” Hungwe said in court.

“The Applicants’ are fed separately. They are denied the company of others. They eat alone. There isn’t much communication with others.

“They have run out of stories. Social engagement is dead and buried. Breakfast is made available in the morning, at 8am and supper at 1500hrs before they are sent to bed, where they are subjected to a glowing light throughout the night.

“The psychological torture, severe pain, and mental anguish has been intentionally inflicted on their person for unknown reasons. The pain they have had to endure has been exerted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of the 1st Respondent. Inhuman treatment is conduct which is applied or inflicted on a person intentionally.

“The unlawful detention was deliberate, known and in the circumstances distressing. The intense mental suffering they have been subjected thereto has contributed to the 1st Respondent’s acute psychiatric disturbance, alluded to earlier on in this Application, particularly paragraphs.”

Hungwe successfully argued that if any offence had been committed, the chief immigration officer or police, would have laid charges, and availed them before a competent court within the stipulated 48 hours as provided by the law.

He also submitted that his clients had been unlawfully detained by the State and had their status reduced to those of convicts, even if they had not committed any crime.

His request for immediate release was the second one.

Mbane and Mkonza were cited as applicants while the Chief Immigration Officer was the first respondents.

The other respondents are the Commissioner General of Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Home Affairs Minister, Attorney General’s office and South African High Commission.