Several ex-prisoners have testified they witnessed officers taking advantage of inmates’ incapacity to act and a general lack of knowledge about their rights while behind bars to convert to their own use goods donated by well-wishers. These goods include food and clothing.
What is particularly disturbing is that the officers are depriving the prisoners of the very items they need most. Food in prison is acutely scarce, let alone good quality food, and so are clothes and sanitary wear. Former inmates have told harrowing stories of how they are forced to use blood-stained uniforms when going to court, and enduring the cold season without warm clothing or blankets, yet prison officers are so selfish as to swoop on whatever little help the inmates receive from the humanitarian community.
According to official reports on prison conditions in Zimbabwe, many prisoners suffer malnutrition and related diseases. What makes matters infinitely worse is that a substantial number of inmates are locked up on the flimsiest of politically-motivated accusations, with their cases inordinately delayed to ensure “punishment”. They are, at law, presumed innocent until proved guilty. It is therefore beyond disgusting for some officers to feather their own nests at the expense of these people.
Besides being inhuman, their acts are illegal, as clearly spelt out by the law and regulations pertaining to correctional services in this country. We therefore call on the Ministry of Justice, the Zimbabwe Prison Services and the police to launch a comprehensive investigation into these allegations.
Surely it would be a simple matter to get to the bottom of this, by tracking the movement of the gifts. Those who donate any goods should list them when they hand them over and the prison authorities should acknowledge receipt in writing and sign to show they have been received. When the goods are distributed to the prisoners, their signatures should also be recorded. Simple record-keeping should make it possible to ascertain if the items do in fact reach the intended beneficiaries. There is a need to send a strong signal against corruption in the ZPS, and there is no way to do so without investigating reports of abuse of office.Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga