Monday, March 27, 2023

HRDs anxious about incarceration after effects

TellZim Reporter

The prolonged incarceration of vocal opposition leader Job Sikhala has raised fears in human rights defenders who are also anxious about their health being tampered with during long jail stays.
Activists Makomborero Haruzivishe and Pride Mukono who have been incarcerated several times have said they are worried they may be going the same route as late political activist Patson Dzamara as they are experiencing symptoms related to colon cancer.
Dzamara was brother to journalist and activist Itai Dzamara who disappeared in 2015, and the younger Dzamara succumbed to colon cancer in 2020, raising speculation that his health might have been tampered with during his several arrests.
Mukono, who has been arrested several times related to his activism recently revealed that he is presenting symptoms associated with colon cancer, which is making him suspect that he may be a victim of slow poisoning due to his activism.
“The symptoms I am currently having started after my release from prison in 2019 and I received treatment then and it went away. However from November 2022 I started noticing that I was having the same symptoms as in 2019.
“These included slight pain aches in the lower abdomen and some blood clots in my waste. I initially thought this would go away but it didn’t hence I sought medical attention and I fear this could be colon cancer,” Mukono said.

Pride Mukono

Mukono also said the targeting and arresting of human rights defenders as well political activists on frivolous charges exposes them to the state’s whims that may include food poisoning or otherwise.
“An example is that of my good friend and fellow activist Patson Dzamara who was injected with an unknown substance which I strongly believe is linked to his untimely death.
“It is therefore clear that as human rights defenders and activists we are being targeted by the state for elimination because of the work we do. It is unfortunate and deeply disconcerting for the State to use its machinery to suppress citizens who are exercising their fundamental rights and calling for a responsive and accountable government,” Mukono said.
Haruzivishe also said he had a scare after experiencing the same symptoms soon after his release, which recurred in the past few months.
“I also had some issues; vomiting with blood traces in my early days soon after release and also traces of blood in the past few months which are worrying because one of my co-accused Patson Dzamara experienced the same in 2016/17 soon after we were released from jail.
“We ignored it as it happened inconsistently, only to get worse in 2020 after which he went for blood tests and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the colon,” Haruzivishe said.
Haruzivishe said the thoughts that they may be dying slowly were traumatic, saying he hoped that he and Mukono do not have colon cancer.
“My second co-accused Pride Mukono is also having these symptoms on a serious scale and I hope it’s not cancer of the colon. What has been most worrying is I’m having the same symptoms (blood traces after stool) but on a minor scale.
“I hope Pride and I will be able to have, and also pass our blood tests and cancer screening. This will put our minds at ease because the lingering thoughts that we may be slowly dying are traumatic,” Haruzivishe said.
He added that as someone who has been arrested 37 times and sleeping in police cells for the same number of nights as well as being jailed 13 times exposed to eating cold foods, irregular diets as well as malicious ploys behind bars.
“My problem is I have been arrested 37 times. That’s 37 times sleeping in police cells and getting jailed 13 times. I tried my best to guard my food but the margins of error are high,” Haruzivishe said.
The continued jailing of political activists and human rights defenders has been condemned by local, regional and international human rights bodies.
Sikhala, who has been behind bars since June 2022 was recently reported to be appealing to court after his medication was reportedly confiscated by prison officials, compromising his health.

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