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prisoners have no food or soap
Sibanda, Mail and Guardian
January 25, 2013
Activists and former
inmates say conditions in Zimbabwe jails are shocking, and basic
conditions such as providing hygiene and food aren't being met.
Some of Zimbabwe's prisons
are unable to feed inmates or cater for their basic hygienic needs,
the Mail & Guardian was told this week.
the chief executive of the Zimbabwe
Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender,
said that his association had discussed the issue of food with the
Zimbabwe Prison Services.
The authorities had responded
that prisons face funding challenges because they did not have a
direct allocation from the fiscus.
At the height of the
country's economic meltdown in 2008, prisoners were badly affected
and an outbreak of cholera and food shortages claimed the lives
of an undisclosed number of inmates.
A former inmate at Gweru's
Hwahwa prison said conditions there are appalling. "We mostly
received one meal a day and, occasionally, two."
He said prisoners survive
on meals that family members bring them, but the food sometimes
does not reach prisoners because warders steal it.
"There was rarely
soap for washing uniforms, leading to outbreaks of lice and skin
disease," he said.
Chihota said prisoners
have an unchanging diet of sadza (thick mealie meal porridge) and
sugar beans. The association has also noted deteriorating standards
of hygiene and prisoners don't have toothpaste and soap. There was
also a shortage of beds and blankets. "Only in prison hospitals
is one assured of a bed," he said.
Justice and legal affairs
deputy minister Obert Gutu said the government "is doing its
level best" to deal with the situation.
The government is trying
to comply with the provisions of statutory instrument 149/2011,
which stipulates what prisoners should eat, but is not "on
a sound financial footing to meet the obligations set out by the
instrument", Gutu said.
He said the situation
had improved tremendously compared with the 2006-2008 period and
denied that prisoners receive one or two meals a day. "Prisoners
now get three meals a day of porridge, sometimes bread and tea,
cabbage, beans and other things."
Gutu said the government
also had to consider the plight of prison officers, who struggle
to find proper accommodation.
"We have more than
8 000 prison officers in Zimbabwe. They are faced with challenges
with regard to accommodation and there is a need for the government
to look at their plight as well."
Prison officials at Harare's
remand prisons said delays in the prosecution of cases also lead
to prison overcrowding.
"We have so many
postponements," said one official, who asked not to be named.
"There are cases where the state applies for an accused person
to be remanded in custody for months while it gathers evidence."
A report that the portfolio
committee on prisons presented to Parliament last year said that
ablution facilities at some prisons were dysfunctional and that
bad sanitary conditions in prisons in Bulawayo were being aggravated
because the city council rationed water.
facilities for Khami remand [prison] were said to be beyond repair.
The situation was worsened by the lack of water to flush the system.
All this was blamed on the unavailability of funds," the report
reporting by the Mail & Guardian's Harare correspondent.
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