Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Prisoners starve in cash-strapped jails

HARARE — At least 100 Zimbabwean prisoners have died of hunger and disease this year because the cash-strapped government can only afford one meal a day for inmates, a senior official was quoted as saying on Tuesday. 

Prisoners in Zimbabwe
Prisoners in Zimbabwe

Prison farms were not getting enough seed and fertiliser from the government to produce sufficient food to feed inmates, the NewsDay newspaper quoted deputy commissioner for prisons Aggrey Machingauta as telling a parliamentary committee.

“Prisoners are dying because of hunger and some (HIV)-related diseases,” he said.

“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 also said that 100 prisoners have died this year, double the number from last year.

The privately owned newspaper also quoted the chief secretary of the justice ministry, Virginia Mabhiza, as telling the committee Zimbabwe’s 46 prisons required $1m a month to run properly. She did not say how much funding the prison system was receiving.

Mr Machingauta and Ms Mabhiza were not immediately available for comment.

Zimbabwe is struggling to right its economy after a decade-long economic crisis to 2009, which critics blame on mismanagement by veteran President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party.

They say the party’s seizures of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to landless blacks weakened food production in a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa, leaving millions dependent on foreign aid for survival.

Mr Mugabe, 89, and in power since the former white-ruled Rhodesia’s independence from Britain in 1980, was re-elected in a July poll rejected by his rivals as fraudulent.

Zimbabwe’s economy is expected to grow 3.4% this year, a significant decline from the near double-digit expansion it enjoyed after the government scrapped the worthless Zimbabwe dollar in 2009.

It desperately needs foreign investment and donor support to create jobs and revamp infrastructure, but Mr Mugabe and other top officials remain subject to international sanctions, making major support impossible. Reuters