I packed my bag and in it I put some honey, butter, bread and a can of mace. Destination? I was going to check out the polling stations in my area and then have some breakfast with a couple of comrades. OK so the mace might be ineffectual when faced by a gang of militia but it made me feel a tiny bit safer. In the Greendale and Highlands suburbs of Harare the voting queues were really, really (I mean really) small. Which I took to be A Good Sign.
Despite the heavy Zanu PF intimidation Zimbabweans look like they’re shunning the poll.
Later in the morning we decided that today was a good day to visit two inspiring women activists detained in Chikurubi Female Prison. Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, the leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have spent 29 days in prison. Read about their case here.
We took the back route to Chikurubi Prison, more by mistake than by design, so we spent a bit of time driving through the bush on the outskirts of Harare. At one point we had to stop and ask for directions. I guess today wasn’t the best day to be doing this and my nerves were jangling, quite a bit. When we finally arrived at the prison gates we handed over our IDs and the warder wrote our names, ID numbers and who we were visiting on a small scrap of paper. After a 10 minute walk through the dust and lots of laundry hanging in the sun, including several versions of Robert Mugabe’s election campaign T shit (oops, my spelling mistake), we finally got to the prison building where Jenni and Magodonga are being held. For 30 minutes we sat on a small wooden bench chatting with them through a fence. They are both well and in good spirits but they’ve had enough of sleeping on a concrete floor. They want to go home. I handed a few small gifts through the holes in the fence; an orange, potato chips, sweets and a few sanitary towels. The warder banned the jar of honey for some reason.
As I was lying in the bath this morning I was getting increasingly agitated (no amount of radox could help) about the fact that Tendai Biti, the Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general gets released from prison as part of an elite political deal, but Jenni and Magodonga are still in detention. An example of women either being forgotten, or fucked over by the system.
Please help to draw more attention to the unjust incarceration of Jenni and Magodonga by writing to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, asking them to step up the pressure.