via Bob’s prison amnesty forced by hunger NewZimbabwe 18/02/2014
THE presidential pardon which will see the release of more than 2000 prisoners was forced by the increasingly dire situation in the country’s 46 prisons and the risk of starvation as the government struggles with serious financial problems.
NewZimbabwe.com has established President Robert Mugabe was forced to act after prison officials wrote to him, warning of possible disaster.
Information at hand shows that the Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services urged Mugabe to consider an official pardon as the department was failing to cope with overcrowding and hunger.
At the end of last year a senior official from the Zimbabwe Prisons Services told a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that over 100 inmates had died due to hunger in the country’s overcrowded jails.
“Prisoners are dying because of hunger and some HIV related diseases. The problem of hunger is compounded by the fact that we can only afford prisoners one meal instead of three meals per day,” said Zimbabwe Prisons and Corrections Services Deputy Commissioner Agrey Machingauta.
Machingauta’s remarks attracted global attention and, barely a day later, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa moved to downplay the crisis by claiming that the official had been misrepresented.
“The media was awash with misleading statistics. Nobody has died of hunger. We do have challenges of food but we are being supported by GMB. People who have died since January have died of various ailments,” said the Minister refuting the hunger allegations.
But last month, while commenting on the 2014 prisons budget in Parliament, the permanent secretary for the Justice Ministry, Virginia Mabhiza, said given the choice, she would have to give more money to the prison department as she did not want inmates to die from starvation.
“In order to feed prisoners on the prescribed dietary scale as prescribe in statutory instrument 96 of 2012, the ministry requires $21 million the whole year, but the department was only allocated $2.5million for prisoners’ rations.”
Mabhiza added that, “the $21million is money needed that is if the prison population remains constant at 17,000 and also if prices remain static, unlike any other requirements the feeding of prisoners cannot be postponed.”
Newzimbabwe.com can reveal that, early last week, Zimbabwe Commissioner of Prisons Paradzai Zimondi wrote to the Ministry of Justice, detailing the dire situation in the country’s prisons which prompted the Ministry to write to Mugabe seeking assistance to avert a possible disaster.
Zimondi urged the government to consider a presidential pardon, warning that the situation had worsened with food stocks down to critical levels due to overcrowding while feeding children in prisons had also become a nightmare.
The prisons boss also explained to Mugabe the department was not obliged by law to feed children of inmates for the crimes committed by their mothers. More than 70 children were living in prisons with their incarcerated mothers.
Under the clemency Order No.1 of 2014, Mugabe granted a remission of the remainder of the periods of imprisonment to female prisoners, regardless of the offence committed save for those to life imprisonment and death.
Mugabe’s clemency also benefitted terminally ill, those above 70 years and serving in open prisons.