Prisoners starve as crime soars(14-12-06)

BY PAUL PALATI

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BEITBRIDGE – The Beitbridge Police Station is becoming overcrowded with people arrested for committing petty crimes as a means of survival as unemployment and inflation reach unheard-of levels in Zimbabwe.


Being imprisoned quickly becomes a traumatic experience for prisoners awaiting trial when the prison authorities refuse to feed them. Prisoners only survive by being fed by friends and relatives. Those who receive food from relatives are forced to share it with their fellow inmates.


A police constable, who refused to be named for fear of being punished, says the police station is becoming more overcrowded because prisoners are detained without trial for up to four weeks.


She said more and more people were being arrested as they increasingly turned to crime as their only means to ward of starvation.


Some residents say their only means of making a living is to assist others to cross the border into South Africa illegally. Jobs are scarce, except in the police force and army if you are prepared to support the government in oppressing its people.


People are not allowed to say anything critical about Zanu (PF) or openly complain about their problems – even when they are slowly starving to death. Freedom of expression has ceased to exist and people are quickly arrested and imprisoned when expressing their views.


Residents claim that the rural council further aggravates the situation by destroying their properties and chasing away street vendors. “They take away the food out of our mouths, so we are forced to sell our bodies in the street if we want to go on living,” said Sharai Mudzingi one of the commercial sex workers here.


She claims she now earns a better income than most public servants working for the government. Sharai holds a Diploma in Nursing but there are no jobs available in this field.


Residents say it’s very difficult to live a clean and moral life in the current situation. Inflation has reached such staggering proportions that everyone’s quality of life is deteriorating day by day. There is a new Shona saying among the people: “Pane mupurisa ndipopanemari yakaswiba” which means “Where there is a policeman there is money.” Today, dealing with anything forbidden by the law makes money in Zimbabwe.

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