The MDC Youth Assembly is disturbed by the squalid, murky and appalling state of Zimbabwe’s prisons. Those who have been in prison for different reasons either on remand or as serving inmates will testify that the prisons are uninhabitable and are in desperate need of compulsory wholesale refurbishment. Holding cells around the country such as the one at Harare Central Police station have been fervently and widely condemned by the public including human rights groups as derelict and not fit for human inhabitance.
The majority of inmates are young people aged between 17 and 35. Many of MDC leaders and activists around the country have been imprisoned at some point including our President Morgan Tsvangirai. Amongst those still incarcerated are the Youth Assembly President Solomon Madzore and 29 others.
The prison menu mainly comprises of brownish sadza and poorly cooked beans, sometimes sadza with cabbages with little or no cooking oil. For breakfast, the inmates are treated to a blackish porridge with neither sugar nor salt. As if that was not bad enough, visitors who visit the sentenced inmates at two week intervals are not even allowed to bring them food from outside.
The inmates are in constant starvation. The rations are not nearly enough, the inmates are too many and as a result a condition called Pellagra has become endemic. This is as a direct result of persistent, consistent and prolonged exposure to a systematic poor diet, continuous hunger and inadequate portions of food. It has come to light that in 2008 prison inmates died in their hundreds from this illness and some of them were buried in the prison cemetery. Pellagra causes the spinal cord to be dysfunctional which in turn affects the body’s movement and cause the senses to react very slowly. This is usually mistaken for someone being mentally ill.
The situation is dire and is escalated by the fact that the responsible authorities are not taking any meaningful measures to address these challenges. It is tantamount to negligence on the part of the state whose duty it is to take care of its citizens. Chikurubi Maximum Prison, for example, houses about 1800 inmates who are faced with this predicament day in day out and there is no hope that the situation can/will be improved in the near future.
As the MDC Youth Assembly, we are deeply concerned about the basic human rights of health and dignity of every single person in Zimbabwe regardless of where they are domicile at any particular moment.
The MDC led government shall make prisons correctional and rehabilitation facilities and not camps for systematically, directly or indirectly killing inmates.
Since the inception of the GNU, the Prime Minister of this Republic has tried a number of times to visit the prisons and holding cells to assess the situation but has been blocked by the security forces under unclear circumstances. Many had hoped that after Dr Tsvangirai’s assessment he was going to recommend and action a robust program to refurbish all prisons and holding cells and more importantly make sure that adequate food and good health amenities is available for all inmates.
For and on behalf of the people of ZimbabweMDC Youth Assembly Information and Publicity
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