Difficult times ahead for prisoners as cash crunch bites

Zimbabwe’s prisoners look set to endure yet another difficult year as government can no longer afford to feed them.

One of the female inmates preparing to go home.
One of the female inmates preparing to go home.

All state institutions are reeling from the effects of lack of finances. The situation has been made worse by rampant corruption and the payment of enormous salaries and allowances to top officials.

President Robert Mugabe this week pardoned 2,000 prisoners, reducing the number of inmates in the country to 17,000.

In January, the permanent secretary for Justice, Virginia Mabhiza, told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs that out of a requested $279 million, the ministry had received only $108 million.

Economic analyst John Robertson said that it was highly unlikely the government would be able to meet its obligation of catering for the welfare of the prisoners, because their budget allocation was a far cry from the sum required to normalise the situation in prisons. “I think that the prison population is much bigger as it should be,” he added.

In November The Zimbabwean reported that a critical food deficit had hit the prisons and prisoners were failing to get basics like toothpaste, soap, sanitary wear and clothing.

ZPS spokesperson Simon Kaondo played down the allegations, saying all was well, but less than a month later ZPS Deputy Commissioner for Administration, Huggins Machingauta, told Parliament they were failing to feed inmates due to financial constraints.

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