Prison building brigades

Inmates have become the cornerstone of infrastructural development as Zimbabwe struggles to recover from a severe brain drain.

Inmates constructing a block at Mutare Farm Prison Junior School.
Inmates constructing a block at Mutare Farm Prison Junior School.

A survey conducted by The Zimbabwean during a recent tour of projects carried out by the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) in Manicaland showed that inmates have been fostering infrastructural development behind bars.

Superintendent Elton Gumindega, in charge of construction and engineering in the region, revealed that prisoners were heavily involved in all the construction projects conducted by ZPCS. Inmates are being given artisanal skills in various disciplines under the guidance of ZPCS officers.

“Our officers train prisoners with artisanal skills and they undergo practical work through being involved in the various construction and engineering projects that we do,” he said. “You will find that most if not all buildings that we have constructed are built by inmates.” These include the provincial head office’s mess, Mutare Farm Prison Junior School, toilets at Rujeko Primary School, residential houses and major rehabilitations at Mutare Boys High School.

ZPCS employs boilermakers, carpenters, welders, plumbers and builders, all of whom impart their skills to inmates, according to Gumindega.

Skilled inmates

Priviledge Ramusi, 47, an inmate who specialises in welding, has been assigned to work at Mutare Boys High School together with another inmate. He was sentenced to two years and eight months for attempted murder.

“I didn’t have any practical skill when I was sent to prison. During my time, I have been trained to be a welder, a skill that I have mastered well. My work at this school is actually my first practical work after the training. Here we are welding burglar bars to be installed in the school windows,” he said.

Ramusi said he was grateful of the skills he had acquired in prison and plans to use them to eke out a living when he is released.

The school head, Mathew Tondoya, said he was impressed by the quality of work provided by ZPCS inmates. “Besides the low labour costs, we are happy with the standard and quality of work they have been doing since we engaged them two months ago,” he said.

The inmates have rehabilitated several structures at the school, some which were built in the 50s. The ceiling, floor, chalkboards, taps and showers have undergone tremendous facelift courtesy of the inmates.

Appeal to donors

Chief Superintendent Zonai Cleopas Nyatsanza, who is responsible for administration in Manicaland, said the prison junior school was expected to be operating by the end of June with four teachers and 50 pupils. It will first cater for ECD and grade one pupils as ZPCS seeks funds to build other blocks.

“We have managed to get to this point in terms of construction as we are privileged to have artisans in our institution who are working closely with inmates,” he said.

But Gumindega hastened to point out that though they incur low labour costs as they use inmates, they seriously need funds to proceed with the project. “We appeal to the donor community to partner us and offer financial support. We need to build more blocks to accommodate pupils up to grade seven. Our coffers are dry and we desperately need external partners to chip in,” he said.

Nyatsanza said the ZPCS would continue to be a shining example in its quest to rehabilitate inmates by equipping them with life skills in various facets of society. Some former inmates have been employed after their release in various institutions, including Border Timber Limited, barbershops, salons and non-governmental organisations.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *