ZIMBABWE still struggles with a high prison population of around 19 000 inmates against a capacity of 17 000 inmates, a development which comes at a time government cannot adequately provide for the prisoners.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Secretary in the Justice ministry Virginia Mabhiza recently told the Ziyambi Ziyambi-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice that every prisoner in the country was supposed to get a standard budget for diet of $3 per month, but government was unable to meet the demand.
“Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) is grossly underfunded especially when they are expected to feed and clothe an average 19 000 inmates and they require around $28 million per annum because the standard diet is $3 per prisoner, but we were allocated $2 800 000,” Mabhiza said.
Asked by MPs to give reasons why government was struggling to adequately feed the prisoners when they were allocated prison farms, Mabhiza said the challenge is lack of farm equipment and irrigation equipment, otherwise if these were availed to prison farms they would be able to sufficiently feed themselves.
She said only $399 000 was allocated for medical expenses for inmates when $4 635 500 is needed, which leaves the prisoners in dire straits as they are very susceptible to communicable diseases due to overcrowding.
The $399 000 that they were allocated is supposed to cover procurement of drugs and medical fees. This has left the ZPCS heavily indebted to hospitals
“ZPCS incurred $1 091 455 outstanding hospital bills and some of the service providers are taking us to court. We have more than $5 million owed to Zinwa and Zesa and some stations have been cut off water and electricity,” Mabhiza said.
In 2016 President Robert Mugabe pardoned about 2 000 prisoners as a way to decongest the prisons and ease the food shortages, but it seems the number has swelled again.