BY VENERANDA LANGA
THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says it has made inroads in ensuring observance of human rights at different problematic institutions such as prisons and refugee camps in the country.
In their latest report, the ZHRC said they visited prisons and during those visits, they found the conditions deplorable, with prisoners complaining that they were being beaten up and also called defamatory names when being berated.
But the ZHRC said after their intervention, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) adhered to their recommendations and were now taking a human rights approach when
dealing with prisoners.
“In 2017, inmates reported torture, beatings and other inhuman and degrading actions by prison officials in violation of section 50 of the Constitution, which provides for the
rights of arrested and detained persons, including the right to be treated humanely and with respect for their inherent dignity,” the ZHRC report said.
“The ZHRC continues to engage with ZPCS to adopt human rights-based approach to the care, protection and discipline of inmates.”
The ZHRC said counselling sessions have since replaced corporal punishment at prisons.
Previously, they said prisoners feared being beaten to death.
The rights institution also claimed that they caused the incarceration of an abusive war veteran who assaulted more than 100 pupils at a primary school in Mashonaland Central.
“The accused, who is 50 years old, assaulted 112 school children at the primary school in ward 12 Mt Darwin for inscribing some toilets at the school with political messages. It
was proven that the accused gave all Grade 6 and 7 pupils two lashes and told them not to write on the walls of toilets again. This happened at assembly in full view of staff
members,” the ZHRC said.
They said the Constitution outlaws corporal punishment and the ZHRC concluded that the rights of children were violated and the case was taken to court, resulting in the war
veteran being sentenced to 36 months, which was suspended subject to good behaviour.
On the welfare of refugees, the ZHRC said there was steady progress in enforcing the rights of refugees after Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge took on board their
They said when they visited Tongogara Refugee Camp in 2017, then the number of refugees was 10 000, comprising people mostly from Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique and the Democratic
Republic of Congo.
“ZHRC found that most refugees from Mozambique, who had migrated to Tongogara in 2016, were housed in tents as they were still to be allocated land to build their housing units,”
the report said. “However, in 2019, there has been steady progress towards the provision of decent accommodation and houses have been constructed for the Mozambicans.”
The ZHRC said the number of refugees has since increased to more than 12 000.
They said during their follow-up visit, they found two blocks comprising four classrooms built and the number of pupils at Tongogara Primary School having increased from 1 700 to
2 300 in 2019. The ZHRC said a police station was built at the camp after their instigation to curb crime. They also said basic services such as access to clean water and
construction of toilets had improved at the camp.