By Norman Miwambo
Reports from the notorious Chichiri Prison-Blantyre, Malawi indicate that one of Malawian gay prisoners is in a life threatening situation, this paper can reveal.
Steven Manjeza (26) who is seriously ill and has been detained in Chichili Prison since he was arrested along with Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20) on charges of alleged buggery and indecency after getting into traditional marriage ceremony last December.
“He has been held on remand in an overcrowded, squalid call for over three months, without proper food, sanitation or medical care,” London-based human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage, told this reporter.
Together with his partner, Tiwonge, Mr Monjeza, the gay lovers, were last month declared and adopted as “Prisoners of Conscience” by the Amnesty International which continue to campaign for their release.
Mr Tactchell has been sent an urgent appeal from inside the prison, requesting help to save Mr Monjeza's deteriorating health situation. Tatchell confirmed that eye-witnessses in the prison, Steven has been vomiting, coughing and suffering from pain and pressure in his chest for the last eleven (11) days.
“He looks very ill and has lost weight,” Tatchell quotes a prison source. He says that people who have seen him fear his health and that he needs urgent hospital care.
“The prison authorities have failed to give Steven proper treatment, or even sufficient pain killers. His pain-killers ran out on 10 April,” said Tatchell.
He added: “My informant says Mr Monjeza urgently needs to go to hospital for a full medical examination and treatment. His health is likely to deteriorate further unless he gets swift medical care.”
Tatchell also says Mr Monjeza is being held in a cell with a dozen of other ment. There is not enough space to sleep comfortably. Chichiri prison was built for 800 prisoners. It currently holds around 2,000 inmates. All are suffering. “Toilet and shower facilities are deficient. Mr Monjeza receives only two meals a day. It is always the same maize porridge with beans, which has low nutritional value.
“Steven and Tiwonge are being held on remand, they have not been convicted of any offence. Yet they are being treated like criminals and imprisoned with hardened with felons convictedof serious crimes.
“Requests by Mr Monjeza and Mr Chimalanga for bail have been turned down, even though people convicted of violent assaults, even murder, have been previously granted bail. It looks like they are being singled out for special victimisation,” said Peter, adding that: “We ask you [readers] to lobby the Malawian Ambassador in your country. Ask him or her to press the government of Malawi to transfer Mr Monjeza to hospital and provide him with medical treatment.”
Although, Malawi's anti-gay law, section 153 of the penal code, was original imposed on the country by the British the coloniser during the nineteenth century, critics contend that this particular section (153) contradicts with both the country's constitution and African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples' Rights.
Malawian Constitution, Article 20 reads: “Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are.....guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.”
Whereas, Article 2, 3 and 4 of the African Charter reads: Article 2; Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
Article 3, also says that every individual shall be equal before the law. And every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law, and Article 4; Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one grounds that it is illegal under the equal rights and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution.