FOUR Congolese minors were locked up together with adult inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Prison after their mother, an illegal immigrant was arrested in 2021 for not having proper documentation to stay in Zimbabwe.
The details emerged after the children aged 11, 5, and 2 approached the High Court suing Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Commissioner General Prisons and Labour and Social Welfare minister arguing that their detention was unlawful.
Their elder sibling, now 18 was still a minor when their mother was jailed.
The four have since been released to SOS Children’s Homes following the intervention of Justice for Children Trust.
The eldest of the four, Ange Mashauri filed the court challenge on behalf of her siblings complaining that respondents should have explored other alternatives than locking them up with criminals.
Ange also said failure to provide educational services and facilities to any child in prison detention is unconstitutional and violates section 81 (1) (f) of the Zimbabwean constitution.
Her mother, Jeanette Nyangorore and Petronella Nyamapfene, a child rights lawyer were cited as the second and third respondents respectively.
However, the application did not find favour with the courts after Harare High Court judge Justice Fatima Maxwell ruled that the children should have left the country when their parents were ordered to do so.
“First and second applicants are prohibited persons due to the failure of the asylum application of one Madhanga Mashauri, father to first applicant and husband to second applicant,” she said.
The court heard that Mashauri was notified in 2012 that he and his family had to leave Zimbabwe within three months the asylum application was rejected but did not.
Mashauri signed to acknowledge receipt of the appeal decision upholding the rejection of asylum on 24 August 2013.
The judge said by failing to comply they invited trouble upon their children.
“Ange and Jeanette Nyangorore (first and second applicants) negated their obligation to comply with a sovereign decision by Zimbabwe to leave Zimbabwe and seek an alternative country of residence.
“Ange states that on 8 January 2022, at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, she and her siblings were sharing the same prison cells with other Zimbabwean convicted criminals.
“As stated above, the government has in place facilities and programmes for offending juveniles. Applicant and her siblings do not fall in that category.
“Applicant’s siblings would have been born elsewhere had her parents respected the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and complied with the directive to leave”
“They are in flagrant disobedience to a lawful directive yet seek recourse from a government they are disobeying. Their timeous intervention could avoid the exposure of minors to circumstances as presented in this case,” ruled the judge before dismissing their application.
Ange had disposed of an affidavit on behalf of her siblings.
She said she came to Zimbabwe with her parents sometime in 2012 when she was aged eight.
They stayed at Tongogara Refugee Camp.
The court heard that on 29 September 2021, Nyangorore went to the Registrar of Births and Deaths in an effort to register one of her child’s birth certificate.
She was requested to produce valid documents authorising her stay in Zimbabwe.
When she failed, she was arrested together with the whole family.
They were detained at Chipinge Prison before being transferred to Mutare prison.
After about two months they were transferred to Chikurubi Maximum Prison on 8 January 2022.
Ange and her siblings were still minors but were put in a cell with convicted criminals.
There were no educational facilities availed at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
The applicant turned 18 years on 8 January 2022.
Around the 16th of February 2022, the applicant’s three siblings were transferred to SOS Children’s homes after the intervention of Justice for Children Trust.