JUSTICE minister Happyton Bonyongwe has lashed out at farm owners who hired prisoners to provide free labour at their farms.
Bonyongwe said this recently in Victoria Falls during the 2018 pre-budget seminar for legislators after a report presented by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice revealed a sorry state of affairs in the country’s prisons and abuse of prisoners for cheap labour.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The issues were raised by acting chairperson of the Justice Portfolio Committee Innocent Gonese.
“The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services [ZPCS] has several farms and an abundance of free general labour, and it will be prudent for Treasury to give them capital for the full operation of these farms so that they can be self-sustaining,” Gonese said.
“Prisoners are also being abused and are made to work for individuals at their farms for free.”
Bonyongwe said international labour laws do not allow the abuse of prisoners.
“Those that are abusing the prisoners in the form of free labour for their farms should desist from it since the International Labour Organisation does not allow this practice,” he said.
Other issues that were highlighted by the committee were that there is overcrowding at prisons, with a population of 19 000 inmates when the intake can only accommodate 17 000.
“New prisons need to be built and prisoners should be incarcerated under human conditions,” Bonyongwe said.
Recently, Justice secretary Virginia Mabhiza appeared before Parliament, where she told MPs that the ministry was struggling to feed the prisoners.
She said every prisoner in the country is supposed to get a standard budget for diet pegged at $3 per day, but government was unable to meet that.
Mabhiza said ZPCS was grossly underfunded and was struggling to feed the 19 000 inmates.
An amount of $28 million per annum is required to clothe and feed prisoners, but in 2017, the government only allocated a paltry $2,8 million to ZPCS.