The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe has urged the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to scale up production at its 24 farms to self-sustenance levels with a view to relieve the Treasury of the burden of feeding 19 000 inmates, who are chewing up $1,7 million monthly.
Addressing top prison officers after a tour of the Harare Central Prison and the Harare Remand Prison yesterday, Minister Bonyongwe urged ZPCS to utilise its arable land totalling 3 487 hectares to feed the prisoners and to sell the surplus for income. Minister Bonyongwe said agricultural productivity on the prison farms was the answer to the dietary challenges bothering the 19 000 inmates locked up in the country's prisons.
The minister's address followed a 40-minute presentation by ZPCS Commissioner-General Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi outlining the state of the prisons and the challenges facing his department. According to the presentation, the 19 000 inmates locked up in the country's prisons, are chewing up $1,7 million monthly in food and other dietary requirements. Minister Bonyongwe said Government will provide the requisite farm equipment, inputs and tools to ignite production on the prison farms.
"ZPCS has immensely benefited from Government's land reform programme. Before the land reform programme, ZPCS only had 13 farms, but now they boast of 24 farms. The provision of land has offered inmates a platform on which to acquire knowledge and skills under agricultural production. In all the grievances raised by the prisoners as we heard today, there was an issue of scarcity of food, the problems to do with dietary requirements, which are not being met.
"This issue of being productive on land answers directly to that problem. There is no crop that we cannot grow on our 24 farms and indeed, we can also keep livestock there," said Minister Bonyongwe.
The minister said last farming season ZPCS participated in the Command Agriculture production and it fared well, an indication that the department had the capacity to do better.
"I am aware that the service, last season, was part of the Command Agriculture scheme and you produced something. What we need is to ensure that we produce, in a very deliberate way, to ensure that we meet all the dietary requirements, which are stipulated," he said.
Minister Bonyongwe said ZPCS should think outside the box and move away from reliance on the Treasury for funding.
"The vision that we have as a ministry is that we should relieve Treasury from the burden of feeding inmates, when we have the capacity to produce enough on our farms. We need to provide you with proper assistance in terms of farming equipment, and tools, irrigation facilities and inputs to ensure that you are then able to grow the crops to self-sustenance levels and to be able to feed the inmates and to sell some of the surplus to generate income," said the minister.