Zim prisons ‘torture camps’

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Zimbabwe prisoners (file pictures

Main opposition MDC-T MP Alexio Musundire (Zengeza East) yesterday equated the conditions at the country’s prisons to terrorist groups Boko Haram and ISIS torture bases.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Musundire made the remarks while introducing a motion on prison conditions.

“Our prisoners are fed with soup from boiled pumpkins and sometimes sadza without relish, prison garb is tattered, cells are filthy and are breeding ground for skin diseases and tuberculosis, which contravenes the provisions of the Constitution and United Nations human rights principles,” Musundire said.

“If we compare our prison to those in the region, one would find that Zimbabwe’s prisons are equivalent to those of Boko Haram and ISIS which do not abide by international norms and standards.”

Musundire said he had evidence that one of the prisoners who was said to have died during the stampede had been tortured.

“I have evidence to the effect that Tonderayi Madzinga was not shot at, but was actually tortured,” he said.

“Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Deputy Commissioner-General Aggrey Machingauta said there was a
political hand behind the prison riots, but he should tell us if he was referring to members of the Gamatox Zanu PF faction or the MDCs.”

He said the poor conditions at Zimbabwe’s prisons were evidence of a failed leadership and failure of government policies.

Seconding the motion, Mabvuku-Tafara MP James Maridadi (MDC-T), blasted President Robert Mugabe for being extravagant saying the more than $50 million he has reportedly spent so far in his foreign jaunts could have gone a long way in providing adequate food for prisoners.

“We send people to prison as punishment, not to punish them,” he said.

“According to UN standards, prisoners are entitled to three meals per day. It will take $3 million per month to feed Zimbabwe’s prisoners, but that money is not available because Mugabe is blowing $10 million per month through travel — money which can feed hungry prisoners for three months.”

He said when Mugabe and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa were imprisoned they retained their dignity and acquired several university degrees which were paid for by the colonial government.

However, Bikita West MP Munyaradzi Kereke (Zanu PF) said there were other areas that needed attention apart from prisons.
“Inasmuch as we need to improve prison services, we also need to improve services at hospitals, street children, people living with disabilities and others,” he said.

“What we need to do is to solve the issue of unemployment which has hazards such as crime. We should ensure our prisoners are productive at farms such as the Cold Storage Company.”

Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross (MDC-T) said the situation at the country’s prisons was so pathetic to the extent that one day
when he was in Beitbridge he witnessed prison guards very early in the morning scavenging for leftover vegetables at the vendors’ market so that they could feed prisoners.

Harare West MP Jessie Majome said the Chikurubi incident was a sign of poor governance.

“There is need for an inquest on how the seven prisoners died,” she said.

MPs across the political divide agreed that the situation at prisons was pathetic and needed improvement in line with the Constitution and UN principles.