In an agonising development, over 140 female prisoners from Zimbabwe who are currently behind bars in neighboring South Africa have appealed for the authorities to release them as they have completed their sentences.

The women say they finished serving their sentences 2 years ago, veteran journalist Ezra “Tshisa” Sibanda revealed.

According to Sibanda, the arbitrarily incarcerated female prisoners allege that the South African prison authorities are refusing to release them, arguing that they will only be released when they can be deported.

They also alleged that they are being ill-treated and denied basics in prison.

Said Sibanda while writing on his Facebook page:

“Over 140 Zimbabwean women currently incarcerated in Sun City Female Prison are pleading with South African and Zimbabwean Authorities to help facilitate their release.

“The women tell this page that they served and completed their sentences for various crimes like theft from shops and fraud with others having completed their sentences over 2 years ago. They say prison management is refusing to release them claiming that they are subject to deportation.

“When this page contacted the prison, an unidentified prison officer said when foreigners have completed their sentences they are sent to Lindela Immigration Removal Centre but its currently full hence not releasing these prisoners. He confirmed most of the ladies will be finally deported but doesn’t know when.

“The Zim consulate has told the women to look for human rights lawyers and has offered no help.

“Reports coming from this prison is that Zimbabwean ladies are ill-treated, forced to bath with cold water, at times assaulted and denied sanitary pads. Their plea to be released has been unsuccessful.

“They have written to Human Rights Lawyers in South Africa to help them to apply to the courts for an injunction for release but havent received any reply.

“They have evidence regarding serious breaches of prisoner duty of care and abuses of their human rights. The failure to ensure social distancing during these Covid-19 time, to provide adequate personal hygiene and sanitation products, wear protective gear and the contamination of laundry items with bodily fluids are among many breaches of care our sisters are experiencing in prison.

“Many other vulnerable prisoners are being held in the ‘infection thriving’, unsanitary and overcrowded environments of Sun City Prison. The prisons are ‘epicentres’ for the virus, devoid of space and operating over capacity and its bad for people who should be free after serving their sentences.

“There is urgent need for low-risk and vulnerable foreigners to be released as soon as possible. SA Government has an obligation to duty of care of those they hold in custody.

“Stop your physical and emotional abuse of our women. Release them and they are willing to be deported.”