Malawi’s outspoken political and human rights activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire said he was appalled at prison conditions in the country’s capital Lilongwe, after he spent days in detention.
Mkandawire alongside other four activists were arrested on Friday 14 October for engaging in a peaceful protest outside parliament in Lilongwe.
During remand at Maula Prison he had seen at first hand conditions of overcrowding, poor sanitation, and other factors making inmates vulnerable to contagious diseases like TB, diarrhoea and scabies.
“Prisons are supposed to reform and rehabilitate people, the Malawi government is torturing prisoners through dehumanising conditions,” he said on comments posted on his Facebook page and also emailed to Nyasa Times.
“Others sleep while seated because of lack of space in prisons,” he added.
“HIV prisoners are left to die; old aged prisoners who have tuberculosis are not looked after properly. The government has totally neglected them,”he said.
Mkandawire said many inmates were on remand for petty offences, waiting for their cases to be heard for months, others years, saying the delays are inordinate.
Mkandawire condemned the excessive and extended pre-trial detention, saying it violates a number of rights, key among which are the right to liberty, dignity, a fair and speedy trial, and to be free from torture and other ill treatment.
He noted that it is especially the poor and powerless who bear the brunt of excessive and extended pre-trial detention.
“This government is subjecting prisoners to additional torture and degrading treatment. Access to information on the state of prison conditions is denied,” said Mkandawire.
“By forbidding access to prisons by human rights monitors means these people will die and their deaths unreported.”
Mkandawire said out of 2000 prisoners at Maula prison, they only have 150 prison wardens. He said this has forced the prison authorities at Maula to appoint Anyapala (long serving prisoners) into guard status.
The activist says he will visit the prison again to cheer the inmates.
Friends of Mulanje Orphans (Fomo) orphanage boss Mary wood worth who was detained over a land dispute agreed that the prison conditions are degrading and life threatening.
“T his is the reason I forced myself to clean up Mulanje Prison, but one room was full of sick people who were nursed by prisoners in bad living condition and when they die they are buried without a coffin nearby, too many innocent people in Malawi prisons and are treated inhumanly,”said Woodworth.
Mkandawire is a politics student at University of Huddersfield in UK. He is also one of the leaders of Malawi Diaspora Forum in UK and was part of a group carrying a banner calling president Bingu wa Mutharika a dictator when he was arrested.
He together with other protesters also demanded the resignation of police inspector general Peter Mukhito and called for an investigation into his alleged involvement in the death of student activist Robert Chasowa last month.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :