HARARE – One hundred prisoners have died in the country’s prisons due to hunger and disease since the beginning of the year.
Presenting oral evidence before the portfolio committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Virginia Mabhiza, permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs told legislators that her ministry was facing financial challenges and did not have enough funds to cater for the prisons which needed $1 million every month.
She told the committee, headed by MDC MP Jessie Majome, that her ministry received only $300 000 from Treasury, resulting in a shortfall of $700 000 to support prison and correctional centres.
Agrey Machingauta, deputy commissioner of prisons, said they were worried with the grim death figures.
“We have 100 people who have died in the prisons since the beginning of the year and it is not our wish to send dead bodies home for burial but we want to discharge people alive from the prisons,” Machingauta said.
“Prisoners are dying because of hunger and some related diseases as we have people living in society dying of HIV related diseases, and this is similar to the prison situation although we have some of our prisoners on ARV drugs. The problem of hunger is compounded by the fact that we can only afford to give prisoners one meal instead of three square meals per day.”
He said the number of deaths in prisons had risen from 50 to 100 within a year.
Machingauta said the country has 46 prisons with a capacity of 7 000 people.
The prisons are currently holding 18 000 prisoners.
He said the major cause of food shortages in the prisons was under-funding of prisons by government as they have not received any seed inputs and fertilisers for use on the 27 prison farms.
Meanwhile, Mabhiza told the legislators a new Attorney General was going to be appointed soon to replace Johannes Tomana, who has been appointed the Prosecutor General.