Human Rights Commissioner Japhet Ndabeni Ncube says there is need for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to visit the country’s prisons without notice to get first hand information on their “decay”.
Speaking during a transitional justice public lecture organised by the Bulawayo Agenda last Thursday Ncube said prisons were dirty and prisoners were treated inhumanely.
“As soon as the Human Rights Commission is operational, as one of the commissioners, I propose that prisons be visited without any invitation.
“If the prison authorities are alarmed on the initiative to visit, they are likely to clean up and that will mean evidence of dirt which exists in prisons will have been destroyed or distorted,” said the former Bulawayo Mayor.
Ncube said when he was detained in police cells, the situation was pathetic and has not improved since.
“I realised that something needs to be done to change the situation at prisons and police cells. The conditions are terrible and the way people are treated goes against human rights,” he said.
Last year, a parliamentary portfolio committee also raised the same concerns — bordering on human rights abuses — and urged authorities to act on the state of the country’s prisons.
Prisoners were reportedly living without adequate basic requirements such as food, clothing, blankets, towels and sanitary wear, among other basics.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisation Forum transitional justice unit manager Shastry Njeru also said there was need for the ZHRC to be operational before evidence in cases like Gukurahundiwas deliberately destroyed.
“The process of transitional justice is taking too long yet it should be taking place now so that people who experienced the 1983 atrocities can retell what happened. As it is, because of natural processes such as age and death and deliberate moves, evidence is slowly disappearing and people are getting old and before we know it, evidence will all be lost. Something needs to be done now,” he said.