HARARE – Scores of inmates remanded in custody failed to pitch up at Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday after ‘Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services’ (ZPCS) vehicles broke down.
ZPCS’ failure to bring prisoners to court resulted in dozens of cases failing to recommence and scores others failing to receive trial dates.
Harare magistrates were forced to remand the cases in absentia due to the blip.
ZPCS spokesperson Elizabeth Banda could not readily provide a comment on the matter saying she was out of office.
However, during a recent Harare Central Prison visit by legislators, Banda admitted that prisons were facing logistics challenges.
“Our biggest challenge here is transport. We house all forms of women. Some are expecting mothers, but we only have one ambulance the whole province. So if we have an inmate that goes into labour at night we have all sorts of challenges,” Banda said.
“Even taking prisoners to courts is a challenge as we only have one car that is shared with Chikurubi maximum. So all in all in the province we have two-and-a-half trucks which is generally not enough. If one breaks down, its a nightmare.”
Legal practitioner Stephen Chikotora said the failure to bring prisoners to court had varying consequences.
“The relatives of inmates who pay the legal fees are the ones that bear the brunt because the legal fees still need to be paid,” he said.
He said the situation was worse for those without legal representation as they would be at the mercy of state prosecutors who may choose to further remand their cases to a fortnight without hearing their concerns.