Deputies from the parliamentary group of UNITA, the largest Angolan opposition party, were today prevented by the penitentiary services from carrying out visits to two prisons in Luanda, allegedly due to covid-19, the political organization said.
According to the deputy of the parliamentary group of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Mihaela Webba, a letter was sent to the General Directorate of Penitentiary Services 15 days ago about the intention of the visit, which was rejected.
“They replied that under presidential decree 112/2022, of May, due to issues related to covid-19, it would not be possible to make the visit. We asked for a meeting to explain to us why and we had that meeting. They explained that they have small outbreaks of covid-19 and that visits to inmates were not yet allowed to families. We said that we are not families, we are in the exercise of our mandate and we want to carry out the activity for which we were elected”, said the deputy, in statements to the Lusa agency.
Mihaela Webba stressed that the deputies considered the impediment “unacceptable”, because the decree establishes that administrative measures must be taken to avoid contagion.
“I would accept that we put on masks, use gel alcohol, that there was distance during the visit, that there was a need to do a prior covid-19 test, that there was a need to present the vaccine, we would accept all these administrative measures. Preventing from making the visit, that is not correct,” she said.
After this meeting, last Friday, the parliamentary group sent another communication informing that, today, the deputies would visit the São Paulo and Viana prisons.
In its reply, sent to the deputies on Monday, the Penitentiary Services reaffirmed the previous position.
“The past official letter was based on presidential decree 112/2022, which has already been revoked by the new decree [de 08 de outubro], which has now even extinguished the interministerial commission to combat covid-19 and the use of masks is now optional. We don’t understand how they continue to evoke the same decree, two days after that decree was revoked, so we decided to leave anyway,” he explained.
According to Mihaela Webba, the direction of the parliamentary group, more specifically the three vice-presidents present in the delegation, were received at the São Paulo prison by the director of that prison, the same happening in the prison chain. Viana.
“The other deputies were even prevented from entering, because they did not have authorization, therefore, the visit of the deputies of the UNITA parliamentary group was prevented”, he stressed.
The deputies question the duplicity of criteria, recalling that, in August of last year, the vice president of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Luísa Damião, visited the women’s wing of the Viana jail and later this year, in September , a lecture was given by the Sagrada Esperança Foundation at the Viana penitentiary, on the life and work of António Agostinho Neto, the first president of Angola.
“At the time, the state of calamity was still in effect. Now the state of calamity is not in force and there is this unequal treatment for the MPLA party and for the deputies of the UNITA parliamentary group”, he underlined.
Mihaela Webba informed that the visit was scheduled for the fourth week of the month, specifically for contact with the electorate, because at this time the UNITA parliamentary group has “no obligation to justify anything at the level of the National Assembly”.
“Our parliamentary group under the regimental terms has political, administrative and financial autonomy and we do not need to ask the president of the National Assembly for authorization to carry out the activities of the parliamentary group”, he indicated.
The purpose of the visit, according to Mihaela Webba, was to see the conditions of the inmates, the working conditions of the prison guards, as well as obtain detailed information about the two establishments, namely the number of inmates and whether they have food and medicines.
Lusa tried to contact the prison services spokesperson, but without success so far.