Former MP fears Covid jail death

02 September 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



Former parliamentarian Geoffrey Mwilima, who is serving an 18-year prison term after being convicted of high treason and other charges connected to the failed Caprivi uprising in 1999, is in a dire condition in prison, and fears contracting Covid-19.

Last week it was reported that about 100 prisoners in the Windhoek Correctional Facility had contracted Covid-19, and fears are mounting that the infection will spiral out of control in the overcrowded prison.

According to sources who spoke to Namibian Sun this week, Mwilima, who has high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease, is being held with 19 other inmates, two of whom have already contracted Covid-19.

Mwilima, who is 64 years old, goes for weekly dialysis, treatment which will be cut short should he be infected with Covid-19.





Calls for pardon

There are now renewed calls for President Hage Geingob to grant him a presidential pardon.

“It will be a disaster if he cannot go for dialysis. One week without it and he will be gone,” the source said. Another concern is that inmates are transported for hospital visits in vehicles that have not been sanitised.

“He is currently housed with 19 people, which makes exposure to Covid-19 inevitable. His latest doctor's evaluation shows that his heart is getting weaker and he has been referred to a specialist for treatment. All these are conditions that expose him to be a likely victim of death in the event that Covid attacks him.

“Three doctors who have been treating him have recommended that he should be released on medical grounds so that he can receive better treatment outside prison, yet the Namibia Correctional Service refuses to let go even after specialist physicians have written submissions to that effect,” the source said.



Government reaction

The commissioner-general of the Namibian Correctional Service, Raphael Hamunyela, said he was unaware of the concerns raised about Mwilima's living conditions. He could also not confirm whether Mwilima shares a cell with 19 other inmates of whom two have tested positive for the coronavirus. Presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari referred queries to the minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security, Frans Kapofi.

Kapofi said there are legal hurdles that make it difficult to pardon prisoners on health grounds.

He said there are many other people who face the same kind of medical challenges but they do not qualify for parole on medical grounds. “The president has expressed his desire to address the matter,” he said.

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