19 April 2012

Zimbabwe: Government Should Look Into the Plight of Prisoners

Photo: IRIN
A prison cell. Not a place to bring up children

press release

The MDC implores the inclusive government to urgently look at the deplorable conditions at the country's prisons where prisoners across the country have been condemned to starvation and nutrition related sickness.

The party is disturbed by a recent report by the Parliamentary Thematic Committee

on Human Rights which says prisoners are living in hell holes where they lack basic necessities such as clothing, blankets, towels and soap among other day to day requirements.

The MDC calls upon the government to swallow its pride and send an SOS message to development partners appealing for aid to avoid a repeat of the pre-2008 period, which led to the death of thousands of prisoners due to a serious lack of food and sanitary facilities.

As the MDC, we know that the government through the Treasury cannot do a lot in terms of meeting prisoners' needs as it is still emerging and recovering from the collapse caused by the Zanu PF regime.

It is shocking that the prisoners are using tattered blankets as clothing because they have no uniforms. The inmates are having a single meal of sadza and roasted peanuts or half boiled cabbage with no salt per day.

This pathetic diet does not in any way comply with government's prison dietary policy and leads to serious malnutrition, exposing the prisoners to the deadly pellagra and other contagious diseases. A jail sentence should not be a death sentence.

Prisons that are severely affected by food and uniform shortages for the inmates include; Chikurubi, Harare Central and Remand, Khami in Bulawayo and Hwahwa in Gweru.

At Hwahwa Prison, inmates are being served meals from plastic papers as the prison does not have proper plates.

However, we find it strange that officials from the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs are making it impossible for the Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon. Obert Gutu from visiting prisons especially those in the southern part of the country. Senator Gutu since his appointment as a minister has visited several prisons and alerted the world of the deplorable conditions of the prisons and called for better conditions.

To stop him from pursuing this positive agenda, the ministry is now making it almost impossible for the minister to visit the other prisons claiming they have no resources.

The MDC does not seek to pardon those who are guilty of crime from being held accountable for their criminal behaviour but that stripping people of their dignity and basic human rights, then condemn them to horrible experiences can never viewed as fair punishment.

It is a gross violation of basic human rights and a crime against humanity.

The people's struggle for real change - Let's finish it!!!

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