On Friday the 13th March 2015, the nation was shaken with the news that 900 prisoners at Chikurubi Maximum Prison rioted against the poor diet that they were receiving at the prison with the events leading to the death of three (3) inmates and injuries of both inmates and prison officers.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is mandated by the Constitution, in accordance with Section 50(5)(d) thereof, to protect and promote the human rights of all citizens including prisoners who are still human beings whose dignity should be preserved even after their liberty has been taken away.
Indeed Section 48 guarantees the right to life while Section 51 of the Constitution provides that every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity protected and respected.
The ZHRC therefore notes with concern the loss of lives of inmates following the riot at Chikurubi Maximum Prison owing to the deplorable standards of living at the Prison.
The Government of Zimbabwe is called upon to adhere to the Constitutional as well as the international obligations that Zimbabwe is party to, such as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which calls upon the state to provide an acceptable standard when it comes to the welfare of inmates including their food, bedding, clothing and medical services amongst others.
The ZHRC commends the Government of Zimbabwe for gazetting Statutory Instrument 96 of 2012 on the dietary scale of prisoners for the provision of nutritious food to inmates.
However, the ZHRC notes with concern the inability by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to adhere to this dietary scale owing to financial constraints. The ZPCS has attributed the challenges to feed and clothe prisoners to the inadequate releases from Government, which factor has also resulted in the ZPCS’s inability to carry out the rehabilitation and correctional role thereby seriously affecting the treatment of prisoners and their basic human rights.
The ZHRC calls upon the state to adequately finance the ZPCS so that it can satisfactorily provide the basic needs of every prisoner.
The State is further called upon to ease the congestion in all the country’s prisons and not go beyond the holding capacity as in the case at Chikurubi Maximum Prison where the holding capacity is 1360 and yet there are over 2270 inmates.
The ZHRC is committed to protecting and promoting human rights and to that end will be carrying out a monitoring visit to Chikurubi in terms of its mandate in Section 243(1)(k) of the Constitution to assess the situation and make recommendations.
Elasto H. Mugwadi
Chairperson, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
16 March 2015