‘Declare civil imprisonment unconstitutional’

Source: ‘Declare civil imprisonment unconstitutional’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 21, 2019


A HARARE woman, who was civil imprisoned for slightly over two weeks has petitioned the High Court, seeking an order to declare the punishment unconstitutional and wants $100 000 in damages from the Commissioner-General of Prisons Paradzai Zimondi, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and the Attorney-General Prince Machaya.

Beverly Jack, recently filed the summons, citing Zimondi, Ziyambi and Machaya as respondents in their official capacities and the three are yet to respond to the litigation.

“(This is an application for an) order declaring that civil imprisonment is unconstitutional as it violates section 49 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and consequently an order striking down order 28 of the Magistrates Court (civil) Rules, 2018 and Order 41 of the High Court Rules, 1971 and section 26, 27 and 28 of the Magistrates Court Act and section 16 of the High Court Act,” Jack said.

In her declaration, Jack said she was suing the three for general damages emanating from “grave distress, inconvenience, humiliation, injury and infringement of her constitutional rights” she suffered while detained at Chikurubi Female Prison from March 8, 2016 until March 23, 2016.

Jack said the reason for her incarceration was that on February 16, 2015, a provisional order for her personal attachment and committal to prison arising from her inability to discharge a civil debt was applied for and obtained at the High Court.

“In consequences of plaintiff’s (Jack) arrest and committal to prison, plaintiff suffered grave distress and inconvenience, was severely humiliated and was gravely injured in her dignity all of which has given rise to a claim for damages and other relief that is sought,” she said in her declaration.

“Plaintiff’s arrest and detention was unconstitutional violating section 49(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Additionally and without necessary limitation, plaintiff’s constitutional rights to section 50 (1)(c) of the Constitution have been violated as the prison officers who were at all material times acting under the command and/or authority of the first and second defendants (Zimondi and Ziyambi), abrogated their responsibility to ensure that the plaintiff was treated humanely and with respect … (to her) inherent dignity and that plaintiff had a right not to be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as provided for under section 53 of the constitution.”

In her claim, Jack further indicated that on arrival at the Chikurubi Female Prison on March 8, 2016, she was stripped naked, given dirty prison garb to wear, denied access to toiletries and other basic necessities in breach of extant prison regulations and or in violation of section 51 of the Constitution.

As a result, Jack is also seeking an order compelling prisons to upgrade their facilities and improve the institutions’ conditions so as to protect convicts from contracting diseases as a result of overcrowding.

The matter is pending.