By Staff Reporter & Lennin Ndebele for News24
HARARE: The family of Zimbabwean opposition stalwart Job “Wiwa” Sikhala fears his life hangs in the balance as his health continues to deteriorate in the infamous Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
Sikhala’s relatives fear he might die in jail after reports emerged on Saturday that he was allegedly poisoned in prison.
He has been behind bars since 14 June after violence broke out in Nyatsime, Chitungwiza, at the funeral of Moreblessing Ali, a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist allegedly killed by Zanu PF activist Pius Mukandi Jamba.
The State charged Sikhala with inciting unrest and defeating the course of justice. He has been denied bail five times.
As of Tuesday, he had been behind bars for 83 days.
Sikhala’s wife, Elllen, told News24 on Monday her husband was weak and could not walk.
“I went to see him yesterday [Sunday] at Chikurubi Maximum Prison but I failed because they said he was too weak to even stand up let alone walk,” she said.
Ellen had to rush to look for a doctor for her husband but hit a brick wall.
“I failed to get a doctor for him yesterday. Today as we speak, I’m going to see him and there’s a doctor who will assist,” she said.
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Having frequently visited her husband to give him food and moral support, Ellen is steadfast in wanting to see him in good health and spirit.
“He needs all the support he can get and that’s the same with others also in detention with him,” she said.
CCC legislator Tendai Biti demanded Sikhala’s immediate release saying his health is now worrying.
“Job Sikhala’s condition is worrying. The regime must release him immediately so that his family and friends can attend to his health,” Biti said.
Government critic Hopewell Chin’ono said Sikhala is recovering but still in deep pain.
“I have just spoken to Job Sikhala’s wife who said the political prisoner is recovering, but he is in deep pain and struggling to walk. She added that the MP said his food was tampered with during the day on Saturday late afternoon, he was vomiting and had severe diarrhoea,” Chin’ono said.
Going to see the accused and providing food has become a financial burden on their families who fear if they do not provide, there could be room for poisoning.
Estelle Adams-Stone, a regular fundraiser for the CCC, has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for families of the Nyatsime 14, Sithole and Sikhala.
“Their families are struggling with day-to-day financial needs because they need fuel to go and see them daily,” she said.
Since the turn of the millennium, Sikhala has been arrested more than 60 times by the regime.
He is no stranger to Chikurubi, Zimbabwe’s most dreaded maximum-security prison.
“Please be advised that we are living like rats here at Chikurubi Maximum Prison. It is no different from Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps. We really need your strong prayers,” Sikhala said in a letter to the public last week.
He and his co-accused are kept in the D class prison section, reserved for dangerous criminals such as killers, armed robbers and rapists.
The human rights lawyers who form part of Sikhala’s legal team, Roselyn Hanzi and Idirashe Chikomba, have written a letter to the officer-in-charge of Chikurubi complaining about their clients’ treatment.
“To our dismay, we have established that the two, Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole, are being subjected to inhumane treatment, more specifically in that they are being shackled in leg irons when they have to leave their holding cells to meet with visitors, including when they are meeting with their lawyers,” read the letter.
Chikurubi houses at least 2,500 D-class inmates.