Doors are the most important part of any prison the world over. But a Zimbabwe parliamentary report reveals one of the country's maximum prisons has no doors and is using cardboard boxes, plastics and handcuffs to make sure prisoners do not bolt.
A shocking report by the senate's human rights committee reveals that the prison, just outside Bulawayo, which houses over 2,000 convicts, is in a sorry state.
Facilities are frequently flooded, parts of the roof are missing after sheets were blown away by heavy winds; toilets are beyond repair and termites have destroyed some of the infrastructure.
Committee chairman Misheck Marava told VOA’s Violet Gonda the situation in most of the country’s prisons is bad. He cites, among others, the Mlondolozi female prison, one of the three jails on the Khami Prison farm, where expecting mothers sleep on the floor.
“Those with babies in the prison, the babies don’t have their own food, they have to feed from their mothers' rations,” said Marava. “The roofs at Mlondolozi do not just leak but pour. A woman goes to bed under a pouring roof like she is sleeping in a swimming pool.”
He said all three jails at Khami prisons are overcrowded, adding they do not have facilities for disabled inmates.
“And the windows at Khami Maximum prison, some of them were covered by cardboard boxes to make doors. It’s appalling.”
Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu said most of the 47 prisons in the country need urgent rehabilitation.
“Our prisons have not been rehabilitated ever since we gained independence 32 years ago." Gutu said. “We are not saying prisoners should live in a five star hotel. No far from it - all we are saying is it’s a basic human right that prisoners must be kept in facilities that do not dehumanize them.”
Although the prison is located on a sizeable farm with inmates producing their own food, prison authorities blame the broken down system on poor funding.
Said Gutu; “More than 10 years ago Khami had more than 2,000 beef cattle but now it only has about 400 beef cattle. You will then notice that the prisons need to be revamped.
“We have very, very good prison farms. Even Chikurubi Prison Farm is one of the best farms in Zimbabwe with over 800 hectares of prime land but the problems we have is that these farms are under-resourced.”
Added the junior minister; “We have highly qualified prison officers, some of them with university degrees in agriculture, but the challenge is not so much the human resources. The challenge we have is to completely have a paradigm shift to have our prisons to run as correctional facilities and not as your conventional jail.”
Gutu appealed to the Treasury to adequately fund the prisons. He also urged developing partners such as the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide immediate assistance to avoid a massive jail break.