MP wants jobs programme for ex-convicts

HARARE - A Zanu PF MP is pushing a new programme through Parliament intended at helping those with criminal records gain employment.

Fani Phiri, the Zanu PF MP for Kadoma Central, said government was making it tough for offenders to put their past behind them and the present policies left them vulnerable to discrimination by employers.

The belief that a criminal background equals risky work performance has been the prevailing ethos for employers and policymakers for decades—at least for the traditional workforce.

Phiri asked the minister of Labour and Social Welfare Petronella Kagonye what she was doing to promote employment to ex-convicts since prisons are providing correctional services.

She acknowledged that the present policies stigmatise and isolate those with criminal records but said government regards prison as a rehabilitation institute. 

“Naturally, all things being equal, the rehabilitated persons are expected to re-integrate into society and be active participants in all areas including equal opportunity in terms of employment services,” she told the National Assembly last Wednesday.

“However, we take cognisant of the unfavourable conditions in the labour market, which not only affect the released person but the generality of all citizens. 

“They all have to compete for the limited jobs and obviously those without any prison record have a better chance of getting the only available jobs, while those from the prison battle to clear their image and stigma.

“We are also aware that every employer requires disclosure in terms of convictions.  It is against this background that we acknowledge the need for a policy that will support mechanisms to cater for those released from prison.”

She said currently, there is no such policy for both private and public sector. 

“Since unemployment is a national concern a holistic approach on employment creation and a fund is also recommended to avoid appearing to be rewarding those from prison,” she said.