VICE-PRESIDENT and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday told Parliament that jailed RGM Independent End Time Message church leader Robert Martin Gumbura — who is serving a 40-year jail term for rape — was among over 100 inmates who planned the violent food riots that broke out at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison last Friday.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The violence left five prisoners dead and several guards injured as over 900 inmates protested the poor diet served at the correctional facility.
Mnangagwa made the remarks after Zengeza West MP Simon Chidhakwa (MDC-T) demanded to know how government had responded to the riots.
Said Mnangagwa: “Chikurubi houses the most dangerous criminals in the country — robbers, rapists, infidels serving 45 years, 60 years, 70 years — and a group of them — about 100 — had conspired to break away from prison.
“Surprisingly also, Gumbura was chairing that conspiracy at the compound area where meals are served and the mutiny was over the issue of there being no meat in their relish.”
Mnangagwa said the prisoners then broke some water pipes and kitchen furniture while others picked up bricks which they used to attack guards resulting in eight officers being injured.
He added that, while the other inmates were rioting, the organisers were busy climbing prison walls trying to escape, and that resulted in the guards opening fire.
He claimed that the organisers of the demonstrations had misled other prisoners that firearms carried by the guards were not loaded, hence they were harmless.
“One inmate was shot and he died. They began to retreat and some got wounded in the process and in total five prisoners have died. We have enhanced security at Chikurubi Maximum Prison and have put the troublesome prisoners in the penal section. Repairs are also underway on the damaged roof. Two prisoners had climbed the roof to escape and were shot at.”
Harare West MP Jessie Majome (MDC-T) quizzed Mnangagwa to explain what government had done to improve the prisoners’ diet and why the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) had falsely told journalists that the five prisoners had died as a result of a stampede.
In response, Mnangagwa said: “I want to believe the report I was given by my officials was the authentic report and not the one in the newspapers. Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) has since donated food including cooking oil confiscated at border posts.
“We have a few cattle at prisons and about 18 000 prisoners, and just imagine how many cattle we would kill to give them meat. Besides, the prescribed diet at prisons is not meat every day. We do not have the pleasure to entertain them as if it is a hotel, we should make sure they realise they are in prison.”
This comes as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has accused Treasury of failing to adequately fund the ZPCS.
In a statement yesterday, ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said: “The government is called upon to adhere to the constitutional as well as the international obligations that Zimbabwe is party to, such as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which calls upon the State to provide an acceptable standard when it comes to the welfare of inmates including their food, bedding, clothing and medical services, amongst others.”
Meanwhile, Makonde MP Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) asked Mnangagwa to explain why Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko was still staying at a hotel because the government had not yet allocated him an official residence. “There is a government house which is still being occupied by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and our Constitution does not say if one retires as PM government should continue to take care of them,” Paradza said.
But Mnangagwa said Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers were all entitled to stay in State residences and the type of house varied according to their grades.
He said Mphoko could not stay in a house meant for a Prime Minister as his grade was higher.
“VP Mphoko’s house is being constructed and once painting is finished, he will stay there,” Mnangagwa said.
Harare Central MP Murisi Zvizwai (MDC-T) raised a point of order with the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, saying Mphoko must attend Parliament to take questions from MPs, adding it would also give a chance for him to meet legislators.
Meanwhile, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo yesterday issued a statement saying the country would meet digitalisation migration deadlines. He said under the new dispensation, viewers would be required pay monthly subscriptions of between $3 and $6 to access television services.
He said the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe had engaged a Chinese company to take charge of the digitalisation project.
Parliament will also have dedicated channels for everyday live coverage.
Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) raised the issue of journalist-cum-human rights activist Itai Dzamara’s abduction.
Chamisa demanded that Dzamara should be accounted for to assure citizens that Islamic extremists Book Haram, Al-Shabaab or Isis were not involved in his abduction.
Mudenda yesterday dismissed recent petitions submitted by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) seeking to block passage of the Reserve Bank Debt Assumption Bill.
Mudenda accused the NGOs of failing to follow the correct procedure.