Harare Remand Prison has been hit hard by shortage of transport to carry prisoners to court, a situation that has resulted in Chitungwiza Magistrates’ Court attending to inmates only twice a week.
The only available truck services the High Court, Harare, Norton, Mbare and Chitungwiza magistrates’ courts.
So dire is the situation that a court official at Chitungwiza, who refused to be named, said prisoners were being denied their right to fair trial within a reasonable period, while courts were creating huge backlogs of cases.
“Prisoners are brought here on Mondays and Thursdays and the truck arrives after 10am. It then becomes difficult to deal with trials because more prisoners are brought at one time,” said the court official who declined to be identified.
“The situation has caused a huge case backlog, while prisoners are being denied their right to fair trial within a reasonable time.”
Harare provincial magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi confirmed the crisis yesterday, but referred further questions to the chief magistrate’s office.
“It’s true prisons are facing challenges in terms of transporting prisoners to Chitungwiza, but for more information contact the chief magistrate’s office,” Mutevedzi said.
However, acting chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe also declined to comment on the matter yesterday and was reluctant to acknowledge the crisis.
“That is not for me to comment on. You can ask the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on those matters,” Guvamombe said.
Acting secretary for JSC, Rex Shana, simply said: “JSC has nothing to do with prisons. You can talk to the relevant authorities.”
When NewsDay called Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa for comment, he said: “I am busy attending a meeting. Do you want me to leave the meeting because NewsDay has called?”
Unconfirmed reports said Guvamombe recently had a meeting with top prison officials over the matter and was assured the problem would be resolved soon with the acquisition of new vehicles.