Food shortage hits prisons


The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs has said the withdrawal of the International Committee of the Red Cross from feeding prisoners had severely compromised the operations of the Zimbabwe Prison Services as government was not able to adequately feed them.

In a report presented to the House of Assembly, during debate on the 2012 budget allocation to Prison Services, committee chairman Douglas Mwonzora said the withdrawal of ICRC affected the prison operations which got $82,7 million.

The ICRC has been helping government feed prisoners since 2008 when the economic crisis in Zimbabwe reached frightening proportions. Soon after their intervention, the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs confirmed prisoners’ diet had improved.

Investigations of prisons by the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights last year showed prisoners’ conditions had become so dire that some of them were suffering from food deficiency diseases such as scurvy and pellagra.

Mwonzora said with the 2012 allocation, it would be very difficult for government to adequately feed prisoners and refurbish prison infrastructure.

“The withdrawal of the ICRC has severely compromised the operations of the Prison Services as they (government) cannot adequately feed the prisoners,” said Mwonzora. “Prisoners are human and have rights; therefore. there is need for the rehabilitation of all prisons that are dilapidated for them to meet the minimum United Nations standards.”

To alleviate the dire food situation at the prisons, the committee recommended there was need to equip the Prison Services with necessary farming implements so that they provide for their own food.

“For prison farms to be more efficient and productive, there is need to equip the department with the necessary inputs for it to be self-sufficient on food requirements for prison inmates.

The committee therefore recommends that there be initial capital injection for such projects to be undertaken,” read the committee report.

Mwonzora also lamented prisoners’ dressing, saying they were only provided with a single set of clothes each.