Prisoners dying of hunger

HARARE - One hundred prisoners have died in the country’s prisons due to hunger and disease since the beginning of the year.

Presenting oral evidence before the portfolio committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Virginia Mabhiza, permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs told legislators that her ministry was facing financial challenges and  did not have enough funds to cater for the prisons which needed $1 million every month.

She told the committee, headed by MDC MP Jessie Majome, that her ministry received only $300 000 from Treasury, resulting in a shortfall of $700 000 to support  prison and correctional centres.

Agrey Machingauta, deputy commissioner of prisons, said they were worried with the grim death figures.

“We have 100 people who have died in the prisons since the beginning of the year and it is not our wish to send dead bodies home for burial but we want to discharge people alive from the prisons,” Machingauta said.

“Prisoners are dying because of hunger and some related diseases as we have people living in society dying of HIV related diseases, and this is similar to the prison situation although we have some of our prisoners on ARV drugs. The problem of hunger is compounded by the fact that we can only afford to give prisoners one meal instead of three square meals per day.”

He said the number of deaths in prisons had risen from 50 to 100 within a year.

Machingauta said the country has 46 prisons with a capacity of 7 000 people.

The prisons are currently holding 18 000 prisoners.

He said the major cause of food shortages in the prisons was under-funding  of  prisons by government as they have  not received any seed inputs and fertilisers  for use on the  27 prison farms.

Meanwhile, Mabhiza told the legislators a new Attorney General was going to be appointed soon to replace Johannes Tomana, who has been appointed the Prosecutor General.

Comments (2)

Thats a very grim picture of our correctional services. With the current economic environment not so promising, any prison sentence is as good as a death sentence. God remember this our beautiful nation turned sorry state

Tibugari - 3 December 2013

Dear Machingauta You article is so touching and I think you guys you need to be innovative inorder to serve lives. Prisons have farms and here you have this free workforce. I suggest you enhance food production through engage thses guys productively in order to produce enough food to feed themselvies. $300, 000 many projects could have been done to sustain the prison. I dont see a situation whereby there will be enough for everyone even at house hold level. You guys should be creative and innovative to keep those placing running. I suggest the following meeasure: Prison officers should have qualifications in some sort of skills e.g Agriculture etc so that we have knowldgeable people with skills to make prisons self sustainable rather than basket cases. A host of other measures can be put in place to increase productivity.

Felix Busuman - 4 December 2013

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