‘2015 prison riots caused by inmates seeking escape’

A REPORT by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs on the attempted jail break at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in 2015 has revealed that the action was not caused by food shortages, but by inmates who wanted to escape.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

The committee chaired by Makokoba MP Tshinga Dube tabled the report in the National Assembly last week after completing investigations into the case in which some prisoners allegedly masterminded a riot on March 13, 2015.

Jailed cleric, Robert Martin Gumbura was blamed for the riots which left over 10 prisoners dead.

“This august House may appreciate that a board of inquiry was instituted and suffice to say that in its findings, the board established that while on the face of it the main motive of the disturbances by the ring leaders was presented as shortage of prisoners’ rations, it would appear the attempted jailbreak was as a result of a well calculated intention to escape from prison,” the report read.

“As a result, corrective actions have since been taken as a deterrent and these include among other measures, addressing issues of staff replacement and linen that was burnt during the disturbance.”

The committee said some of the concerted efforts being made to improve prison conditions in the country were through the 2016 Presidential Amnesty exercise and dealing with overcrowding at prisons.

“Through the Home Affairs Committee’s recommendations, prison authorities have established internal monitoring mechanisms to deal with the security threat in the prison facilities,” the report said.

The riots involved 2 293 prisoners at Chikurubi out of 17 000 inmates in the country’s 46 prisons, and they were said to have started in the “D” section which housed prisoners serving sentences ranging from 10 to 100 years for rape, armed robbery, murder and others.

Ironically, when the prison break happened, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services deputy Commissioner-General (audit and inspectorate) Agrey Machingauta appeared before the committee and said the attempted jailbreak was politically-incited.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was then Justice minister, had implicated Gumbura as having masterminded the prison break.

There were also reports by Machingauta that the prison break was meant to tarnish the image of former President Robert Mugabe, who was on a State visit to Japan when it happened.

The prison break was also blamed on the poor diet, where prisoners complained of being fed sadza and soup without meat

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