Prisoner on ARVís given chance to fight for survival

A prisoner on Anti-Retroviral (ARV’s) drugs and serving a 10-year sentence for robbery has been granted a chance by the High Court of Gaborone to fight for his survival.

Gift Mwale from Zimbabwe yesterday made an application before Justice Key Dingake seeking reduction for his sentence or for the sentence to be completely set aside arguing he needs to be free to be able to source for his own drugs. He argued that since the government was refusing to provide drugs for foreign inmates, it was only fair that he be allowed to find a chance to fight for his survival.

“Since the government is failing to provide me with the life saving ARV drugs, I should be allowed to be free or at least my sentence be reduced so I can be able to go out and source for drugs, because I cannot afford to stop taking the drugs as that can be fatal,” he said.

Mwale had appeared without any legal representation until the Judge advised the state counsel Farayie Mahwite that the applicant would need a legal representation for the matter to proceed.


Mwale had told court that he was left with only a month supply of ARV’s of which when they get finished, he would not be able to get another supply as he had no funds.

“Right now I am only left with a month supply and as it stands I won’t be able to afford another supply as I am behind bars. I will need to be out so I can source funding for my drugs, which I can’t do while I am here,” he said.

After the deliberations by the applicant and respondent, Dingake said the matter was urgent and that it needs to be heard within a month. He made a court order for the two parties after attorney Friday Leburu agreed to represent the applicant, Mwale. According to the court order, the applicant (Mwale) and the respondent (represented by the Attorney General) were to be granted fresh papers before March 18, 2015.

“The parties cited, which include the Attorney General, are also advised to file affidavits within 14 days and that the applicant may reply to the opposing papers before the court date,” stated the order.

The case, expected to set yet another precedence in the laws of the country regarding foreign inmates and life saving drugs like the ARV’s, will be argued in court on April 10, 2015. The country has in the  past been attracting international interest and media attention after two HIV positive Zimbabweans inmates lodged a legal challenge against the government. This was after the government introduced a policy to deny foreign inmates life-saving ARVs arguing it has a tight budget that can only cater for its nationals.

After a lengthy trial the High Court ordered the government to provide ARV’s treatment to HIV-positive, foreign prisoners at state expense. The court held that the denial of ARV treatment to foreign prisoners violated their constitutional rights.

The court had rejected the government’s argument that it did not have adequate funds to provide non-citizen prisoners with ARV treatment, holding that the government had not raised any evidence to support the contention.

However the government is still relentless in providing the drugs as it had vowed to fight back the court order through an appeal meaning that the foreign inmates would still wait a little longer until the appeal goes through and then its outcome.

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