Zimbabwe Prison Service bans prisoner food handouts


Harare(ZimEye)-The Zimbabwe Prison Services has banned food hand-outs from inmates’ relatives at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, in an attempt to curb trafficking by prison officers, raising fears that the prison which recorded the highest prison mortality in 2008 might once again experience the same thing as the government is not yet capable of feeding the crowded  prisons.

According to highly placed sources at the security maximum Prison on early this week the Prison’s Officer-In-Charge Assistant Commissioner Pambai announced the development before placing notices at the prison notice  boards.

The sources say Assistant Commissioner Pambai  was reacting to a recent attempted prison escape by seven “D’ class inmates led by Defence  Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa ‘linked’ coup attempt Captain Albet Matapo last month.

Matapo after being tortured last month by the CIO revealed that he had drunk some beer which were smuggled in prison by a prison officer who was assisting him to escape.

“We understand this might be security measure on the part of the OIC but it has a great impact on more than 1800 inmates who  mostly rely  on food brought in by their relatives. At the moment the prison is not able  to provide even a single  meal, as  we are  relying  on Red Cross and  other donor s on food  to feed the inmates,” said the
source .

“The  officer-In-Charge  is  being arrogant  and  cruel he  knows really that inmates recently succumbed  to pellagra because of malnutrition and  he  is  putting  an embargo on prison food. If he was security conscious why cant he request for more prison officers who are currently doing  their (ZPS Top officials) private jobs. The issue here is not that of banning food but of human resources,” added the source.

Secretary refuses to comment

Reached for comment Zimbabwe Prison Service spokesperson Chief Prison Officer Priscilla Mtembo said she was not able to attend to telephone interviews.

“Fax your questions and then I will respond to them, do you have our fax number? When are you going to fax your questions?,” she said.

Over 720 male prisoners in between May 2008 and June 2009  succumbed to severe hunger and treatable diseases at Harare’s Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

The situation at that time was  so dire that the inclusive government had to appeal to charity organisations to come to the rescue of the prisoners with food aid, clothing and drugs to prevent mass deaths at the country’s largest jail.

At  least 721 prisoners died from diseases linked to serious food shortages such as pellagra during that period. Pellagra is a deficiency disease caused by a lack of vitamin B3 and proteins.

Prison officials also allowed inmates’ relatives to bring them extra food to supplement what the donors where bringing. (ZimEye, Zimbabwe)