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Family demands release of detained student activist Allan Moyo amid fears of Covid-19

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WHEN 22-year-old Alan Moyo was arrested last December, his family thought he would return home in time for Christmas.

NYASHA CHINGONO
But 67 days later, Allan is still languishing in Harare Central Prison cells.
They are troubled and exasperated.

Arrested on 7 December and charged with incitement to commit violence allegations, Alan has been denied bail several times with many believing he is being punished through a pre-trial detention – the now common malicious application of the law.

Each visit by his father, Jepheas Moyo, is a tear-jerking moment as he watches Alan languish in remand prison, his hair unkept and in dirty prison garb.

He longs for his son’s return home.

“He said, he is ok, but I know my son all is not well. He may look tough on the outside, but he is not ok. It breaks my heart to see him like that,” Moyo told The NewsHawks in an interview.

Back home, Moyo has been struggling to explain Alan’s whereabouts to his siblings who often ask after their older brother.

His mother has been struggling to cope without her son, Moyo explains.

“It is tough for us at home, we are used to having him at around. Having to explain to his siblings what happened to their brother is not easy. I am very sad, so are his mother and siblings. We just pray he gets bail soon because we would want him to get a fair trial from home. I think it is his right,” Moyo said.

Moyo describes Allan as an obedient child who would never engage in violence.

“Alan is a good boy; he loves his books. He is an obedient child and loves hanging out with his friends. He could never cause any trouble,” he said.

Alan, a student leader from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) allegedly addressed commuters at a bus rank in Harare, calling for a violent revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the state alleges.

According to his father, Allan was arrested at Harare Central Police Station where he had gone to give lunch to his friends from the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz).

“When he started getting involved in student politics, I sat him down and explained my reservations, but he assured me that he would be safe. I just told him to be careful. The day that he got arrested, we were all shocked. He had taken food to some of his friends in Artuz who were at Harare Central, but the police said they were looking for him. He never came back home,” Moyo said.

While in prison, Alan is not allowed to wear personal protective clothing in the crammed cells, heightening the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Alan sleeps with 30 other prisoners in one cell. There is hardly any social distancing, his father says.

“Alan says only God is taking care of him inside remand prison because there is barely any social distancing. About 30 inmates sleep in a cell and they are almost 500 in total. There is no PPE for the prisoners, and they are just living as if there is no Covid-19. We had bought him a PPE suit, but the authorities denied him the opportunity to wear it. We tried to engage them, but they refused,” Moyo said.

Moyo fears his son could contract Covid-19 in prison and he says that is scary.

“I am afraid that he may get Covid-19 in remand prison because the cells are not being fumigated regularly. There are just too many living in one cell,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s prisons have become Covid-19 hotspots, amid revelations that prison guards and inmates are contracting the deadly virus.

Overcrowding in the country’s prisons has become a hazard for prisoners, amid calls to decongest jails across Zimbabwe.

Alan’s imprisonment has sparked an online campaign calling for his release.

He joins the list of other student activists like Zinasu president Takudzwa Ngadziore who have spent more than 30 days in remand prison without trial.

The #FreeAllan campaign has since December gathered momentum as Zimbabweans, including those in the diaspora and human rights organisations, call for his release.

The state, however, remains stubborn, denying the 22-year-old bail several times amid allegations of state persecution by prosecution.

This week, Alan was denied bail on the basis that he is of no fixed aboard. His shocked father said the state should not hold his son any longer, adding that Alan was not a flight risk.

“He is young, and he is no flight risk. Alan stays with me so he will not run away. He also does not have a passport so there is no cause for worry on the part of the authorities. They should give us the chance to explain that we stay with him and nothing will happen if he is given bail,” Moyo told The NewsHawks.

“I do not understand why the authorities would want to keep him in remand prison. Is it incompetence or they are just punishing my son? I do not know. I am just confused.”

Alan’s story is one among endless tales of the state’s unrelenting repressive bid to silence critics.

Since Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to power in a military coup in 2017, Zimbabwe has witnessed sweeping arrests of political and civil society activists, opposition leaders like Job Sikhala, Joana Mamombe and Fadzayi Mahere and journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono, who has been jailed three times in six months.

The state has also upped the ante on surveillance, torture and abduction of government critics.

With this happening in the full glare of local and international media, while other violations have happened under the cover of internet shutdowns and Covid-19 lockdowns, Mnangagwa’s government seems unfazed in its bid to silence critics and retaining state power.

As the crackdown on dissent continues, families of activists like Alan who dare stand up against the government continue to suffer emotional trauma.

“I just hope they give him bail soon. I want my son back home,” Moyo said.

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