via SW Radio Africa by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights 02 December 2013
MORE than 100 prisoners have perished in Zimbabwe’s prisons since January 2013 as the country’s correctional centres turn into death traps.
Officials from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPSC) told the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs headed by Harare West Constituency legislator Hon. Jessie Majome that more than 100 prisoners have died in Zimbabwe’s prisons since January 2013 owing to nutrition-related illnesses induced by food shortages and natural causes.
Giving oral evidence before the committee, Virginia Mabhiza, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and ZPSC Deputy Commissioner Agrey Machingauta disclosed that food stock outs had reached precarious levels owing to a shortage of financial resources to purchase monthly food rations for the country’s prison population which stands at 18 460 inmates.
Out of $1.2 million required to purchase monthly food rations, ZPCS was only being receiving an allocation of $300 000 and hence is currently struggling to enforce the mandatory dietary regime of three meals a day to improve inmates’ health conditions.
Owing to fuel shortages Mabhiza said the ZPCS was failing to transport prisoners to attend court appearances.
Mabhiza told legislators that her ministry will soon appoint an Acting Attorney-General who will act as the legal adviser to the government following the appointment of Johannes Tomana as the Prosecutor-General to head the National Prosecuting Authority.
The permanent secretary protested that some members of the society were taking advantage of the government’s reluctance and delays to harmonise some laws with the new Constitution and hence her ministry had identified 140 laws which do not require comprehensive alignment to be amended by ways of a General Laws Amendment Bill.
Machingauta disclosed that 36 prisoners had since January escaped from lawful custody while eight had been apprehended once again.
Mabhiza said 77 children are currently held in the country’s prisons and the ZPCS was relying on well-wishers who were providing financial and material support for their upkeep.
The permanent secretary told the portfolio committee that her ministry will soon dispatch an audit team to seize property such as vehicles, motorbikes and grinding mills in 20 constituencies which had been sourced by legislators under the Constituency Development Fund and who had personalised them.
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