Meals not included

28 09 2011

J and another 5 senior staff (including the owner) of the company where he works recently spent the weekend in a local suburban jail. I knew the company, which grows and exports fresh vegetables, had been having hassles recently but this was a chance to get it from the horse’s mouth.

A couple of months back the High Court had ruled that the squatters who were on the farm were there illegally and the owner had full rights to access the entire farm. This was apparently on the basis that it was not state land but peri-urban land and would be incorporated into Harare Municipality at some future date. The owner decided to test this and went with a team of assistants to recover some chemicals and equipment that had been appropriated by the squatters. Most of the equipment was successfully retrieved but in the rush some chemicals belonging to the squatters were also picked up. The error was realized but once an inventory was made the squatters decided they didn’t want the chemicals any longer. Someone saw this as a harrassment opportunity and 2 Fridays ago the senior management and owner were told to report to a local police station. They were duly locked up for the weekend.

“So how was the food?” I asked.
“Hey, you have to supply your own!” J replied. “We got people to bring in what we needed and enough to supply the other inmates too so that we were really popular!” he added. “We were allowed into the courtyard (a small fenced area) three times a day, theoretically for an hour but they initially abused that until someone send along a human rights observer and then they relented. I actually think the police were a bit embarrassed as they knew we weren’t supposed to be there but in that situation they are effectively God and do much as they please. It wasn’t too bad I suppose” he said reflectively, “At least there were no bed bugs but it did get over crowded by Sunday so we persuaded the police to open another cell that was reserved for women and take some of the men out of our cell” he continued. “It wasn’t unpleasantly hot or cold which was lucky but on Saturday a nutter came in. We didn’t realize just how mad he was until he started helping himself to the contents of the toilet which was not flushable from inside. But we soon persuaded the police to get him out”.

The following Monday at the bail hearing the lawyer for J and his colleagues commented to the magistrate that he thought the behaviour of the police in restricting the exercise time was despicable. The magistrate then asked the lawyer for the state if she would like to comment.
“Yes” she said. “I think the police should be commended on their restraint in not beating the prisoners”.

The case will got to trial early next month.

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2 responses

1 10 2011
Sybille

Dear, it looks like you are ready to join the ICRC?

2 10 2011
La Canadienne

The inmates have taken over the asylum. Good luck.

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