22 February 2013

Zambia: 'Prison Warder Was Abducted'

A PRISON warder was abducted by Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison inmates during a search following last week's prison break-out from the condemned section.

Three death row inmates identified as Bernard Kapaso, 41, Derrick Mwape, 29 and Shaderick Phiri, 32, escaped from the highly-fortified facility in Kabwe on Wednesday last week.

Home Affairs MinisterEdgar Lungu told Parliament in a ministerial statement in Lusaka yesterday that the abduction of the prison officer caused a fracas, leading to the unleashing of 300 recruits to help quell the situation.

Prison authorities have since slapped an indefinite ban on family visits of inmates at the biggest State penitentiary until inquiries were concluded.

Mr Lungu also refuted assertions that 16 prisoners died as a result of beatings by prison recruits as alleged by Kasempa MMD Member of Parliament (MP), Kabinga Pande during a point of order on Tuesday this week.

The minister said after the three prisoners escaped, a special search was instituted in all the sections of the prison facility.

"The purpose of the search was to remove from the prison all prohibited articles as well as establish if there were any further threats to the security of the prison. Officers discovered that the three escapees used a sharp instrument to cut the metal ratch which fastens the doors of the cells and eventually escaped from lawful custody," Mr Lungu said.

Mr Lungu said the Prisons Act, Chapter 97 under rule 198, empowered prison officers to conduct thorough searches on prisoners and the cells to rid them of all prohibited and dangerous instruments.

He said the search by prison officers was met with resistance from inmates who abducted one prison warder who was held hostage and demanded that the search be curtailed as a condition for the release of the prison officer.

It was at this point that 300 recruits were summoned as reinforcement to rescue the 'hostage' and also continue with the search.

Mr Lungu said 20 prison warders were deployed inside and was beefed up by recruits, while another 30 police officers were placed outside the prison.

About 200 more police officers were deployed outside the premises.

" The search yielded positive results as various offensive weapons like screw drivers, knives, and many other prohibited articles were recovered at the end of the search.

"Based on what I have informed the August House today, deaths reported by Honourable Pande, are fictitious and may be the MP can kindly tell the House where he got that information from. As MPs, it is important that before we give any piece of information to the House, we need to undertake thorough consultations and verify facts," he said.

Mr Lungu said Mr Pande's statement was alarming and a threat to the security of the nation.

Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison had a population of 1,980 out of which 366 were male condemned prisoners.

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