news24.com, May 4
Pretoria — Advocate Francois Joubert SC and Alwyn Griebenow who are representing the 70 men being held in Harare’s maximum security Chikurubi Prison on charges of coup plotting have described the jail as a camp worse than Auschwitz.
The legal team was speaking after their arrival in South Africa from Zimbabwe where they have been dealing with the men’s case.
They say the white men in the group, in particular, are at times placed in a cell that measures only a square metre.
The men are given food in this cell — mostly pap — once a day. This is pushed under the door and they have to eat with their hands.
While in these cells, they are not allowed anything to read, nor are they allowed anything with which to write.
Some of the men are forced to undress and sit naked in front of the other prisoners. On some days, it is “officially” approved that prisoners be abused.
Bodies are carried out of prison
“One hears how the people are assaulted with batons to anything (that is handy).
“Reon Schutte, another South African who is dying of cancer and who has been in Chikurubi for more than 10 years on charges of apartheid crimes, has had all his teeth knocked out.
One also sees how bodies are carried out of the prison.
“Only then is the abuse over,” said Joubert.
According to him, this has had a traumatic effect on the South Africans and their families.
The prison supplies only a blanket and the men wear summer prison clothes.
Lice is rife, but prison authorities refuse to allow the man insecticides.
Joubert said some of the men had contracted a skin disease, possibly due to the poor food. One also had chickenpox. These were the most horrific conditions that one could imagine.
He said that every day the men got pap and a cup of dried rice with a bit of cooked cabbage.
After the legal team got a court order to allow them to take in food, the prison authorities claimed it would have to be tasted in their presence.
The prison also had no jerseys for the men. The men’s families organised jerseys that looked exactly like prison ones as well as socks.
Kept under restraint 24 hours a day
Now, the prison authorities were refusing to allow the men to have the jerseys.
There were reports that the men were planning to escape and they were now being kept in handcuffs and leg irons 24 hours a day.
“They are also not allowed to wear the socks because then the leg irons don’t chaff as much,” said Griebenow.
He said it was ironic that the “experienced” prisoners were helping the South Africans. They kept up their spirits and advised them from experience.
Griebenow said: “They are hardened and used to the conditions. Surprisingly, the men are in good spirits and are positive.”