The Constitutional Court on Thursday passed a landmark ruling agreeing with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) that holding cells at the Harare Central Police Station are uninhabitable and degrading, especially to women.
The ruling follows a case filed four years ago by members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and others following their detention at the police station's holding cells.
The women claimed they were exposed to inhumane conditions.
The Constitutional Court, as a result, has directed the state to provide, among other ncecesities, clean and salubrious toilets in the cells with toilet paper and a washing bowl; cordoned off flashing toilets that give privacy to individuals; furnish every inmate with a clean mattress and adequate blankets, access to clean water to detainees at all times, and most importantly allow women detained to keep their undergarments including bras and wear suitable footwear.
WOZA co-founder Jenni Williams said the landmark decision is not a victory only for WOZA activits but all Zimbabweans.
“We've not only won, Mangodonga, Selina and my other colleagues but Zimbabwean women have won, and those who are finding themselves in police cells will feel that this victory is theirs too,” said Williams
A five-judge panel heard arguments in June 2012 during the constitutional challenge and reserved judgment.
The same panel at the time conducted an inspection of the station to ascertain the alleged degrading condition of the cells.
Attorney Dzimbabwe Chimbga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said his organization hopes the decision of the court will be immediately implemented by the state.
Human rights lawyers Lizwe Jamela agreed, saying Zimbabwean law has never been against the protection of people’s rights, but the police have acted iresponsibly in following laws.
Jamela said he hoped it would not take another court case to redress rights enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution.