By Daniel Nemukuyu
Machete gangs that were arrested in mining areas across Mashonaland Central Province have resulted in overcrowding at Bindura Remand Prison, forcing at least 150 inmates to sleep outside the cells.
It has been raining in Bindura this week, worsening the plight of the inmates.
The prison has a holding capacity of 255, but since the launch of “Operation Chikorokoza Ngachipere” early last month, the figures have ballooned to 670.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) spokesperson Superintendent Meya Khanyezi said the crisis at Bindura Prison poses a security threat.
“Our prison cells can accommodate up to 255 inmates, but the number of prisoners now has ballooned to 670, more than double our holding capacity.
“About 150 are sleeping in the open, outside the cells due to overcrowding and this compromises our security.
“Imagine prison officers, who are not even adequate to manage the normal 255 inmates, guarding dangerous machete gangs outside during the night? We are talking about machete gangs, who cannot be released from prison for security reasons, and a few officers spend nights guarding them outside the cells,” said Supt Khanyezi.
She called for additional magistrates to speedily conclude the cases.
“A special court must be quickly set up to deal with the cases, as a way of decongesting the prison. Additional magistrates for the special cases are vital to ensure those who deserve custodial sentences are jailed and the innocent ones are sent home.
“Convicted offenders are manageable because they can be transferred to any prison in Zimbabwe without any challenges. They can serve their jail terms from any prison in Zimbabwe as a way of decongesting Bindura,” said Supt Khanyezi.
The prison’s budget has also been overstretched.
“The food situation is not good at all. Where we used to feed inmates with one tonne of maize-meal, the amount of food we need has doubled,” she said.
ZPCS, Supt Khanyezi said, was allocated 32 percent of the amount it requested, leaving prisons facing serious food, clothing and medication challenges.
“In terms of policy, prisoners cannot be moved away from their court. If we think of going out of our way to move them to Harare and transport them to Bindura each time they have a court appearance, the transport crisis in the organisation will always curtail us.
“We do not have enough security vehicles to do that, hence the option falls away,” said Supt Khanyezi.
Since last month, police have arrested at least 2 345 suspects for violence and other illicit activities in mining communities countrywide. Mashonaland Central Province, especially Shamva and Mazowe, recorded 1 621 arrests.
The group comprises only one woman.
Most of the suspects were denied bail for security reasons. The Herald