A SENIOR official at the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has revealed that most of the country’s prisons were still experiencing serious food shortages after their suppliers withdrew their services over non-payment.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
ZPCS deputy commissioner-general Agrey Machingauta told Parliament that suppliers were owed over a million dollars.
Machingauta told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs that Treasury had since availed $200 000 for repairs at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison Complex following the violent food riots that occurred in March this year.
“When I appeared before this committee last time I said the disturbances at Chikurubi Maximum Prison had outside influence — and we still stand by that position, but it may be difficult for me to say it was Peter or John who were involved,” Machingauta said.
“I have no names — but there were some outside forces that were communicating with our inmates and these advised prisoners to riot and we still stand by that position, but I cannot really say whether they had political or no political influences.
“We still stand by that inmates grabbed a cellphone and made a call to a private newspaper, but we cannot witness to say we actually saw an inmate making the phone call, but we know that a phone was grabbed from a prison officer and it later showed some calls were made.”
The prison boss admitted before the committee that the food situation was very bad during the time of the riots, adding currently prisoners were having at most two meals instead of three per day.
“The truth is that the situation obtaining in our prisons throughout the country is not pleasing due to lack of adequate finances. We would like to reverse the situation to three meals per day, enough blankets and two pairs of uniforms.
Unfortunately as we speak we are struggling to dress our inmates. We have since bought 34 000 metres of prison uniform material two weeks ago and have started dispatching new clothes.
“We however do not have money to buy blankets. Chikurubi is the most affected because the few blankets they had were torn during the riots,” he said.
The committee was not impressed by the failure of the prison services department to press government to give them irrigation equipment that was recently acquired from Brazil to ensure prisons were self-sustainable.
Machingauta said instead government had availed motor bikes to prison farm managers, which the committee felt was failure to prioritise production issues.
MPs also quizzed Machingauta over the qualifications of prison guards, saying it now seemed that prisoners were now smarter than the guards themselves when it came to prison security issues and were taking advantage of the loopholes since the time of infamous prisoners Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke, adding they had noted recurrence of prison breaks at Chikurubi.
The legislators also questioned Machingauta over whether the prison intelligence worked with other security departments like the Zimbabwe Republic Police, had trained sniffer dogs that were strong enough to scare prisoners, or whether they had enough equipment to stop any possible riots or prison breaks.
The prison boss said they recruited guards from ages 19 to 30, adding the officers who were trained as the quick reaction unit had been redeployed due to old age and new ones needed to be trained.
“We requested for 2 000 more officers but Treasury has not responded.
“We have a vibrant dog department. The problem with the security wall is that it was constructed during the Rhodesian era and it is now collapsing. We need to move with technology such as the type of fencing which is used by South Africa which can be repaired,” Machingauta said.