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Extended Strike By Zimbabwe Magistrates Raises Specter Of Disease In Cells

With a strike by Zimbabwean magistrates and court staff now in its sixth week, fears are on the rise that diseases may break out in packed police holding cells, particularly as many Zimbabwean lockups are notorious for their insalubrious conditions.

Legal sources said police cells that were designed to hold an average of six people are currently holding up to 50 prisoners awaiting arraignment.

Magistrates in Harare went on strike Oct. 30 demanding an increase in their salaries to Z$150 million, now less than US$50, from Z$20 million - the Zimbabwean dollar has meanwhile plunged from around Z$1 million to to Z$4 million to the U.S. dollar.

Human rights lawyer Job Sibanda told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although the government has assigned police prosecutors to preside over arraignments, the situation in courts and holding cells is far from normal.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...