Hvor selv muggent brød vækker jubel – Zimbabwes fængsler

Forfatter billede

Ikke nok med at fængslerne i Zimbabwe er overfyldte og uhumske, maden er så dårlig, at fangerne kaster sig over alt, de får (efter at fangevogterne har taget det bedste) – måske fordi de seks farme, som skulle levere maden, er kørt i sænk af mangel på alt til at drive dem.

HARARE, 11 October 2013 (IRIN): Every couple of weeks, inmates at Harare Central and Chikurubi prisons in Zimbabwe greet the arrival of bakery trucks with roars of approval, whistles (piften) and dancing.

The trucks’ arrival signals a rare few days of bread to relieve a prison diet (kost) that is sparse and monotonous.

“The bread is in fact rejected by the bakery, but it still brings joy to prisoners because it is some of the best food they ever get behind those walls,” said Kerina Dehwa, a former prisoner.

She recently spent more than a year at Chikurubi Female Prison, about 15 km east of the capital Harare, awaiting trial.

She was among 21 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party who were accused of murdering a senior police officer. All but five of them were recently acquitted (frikendt) by the Harare High Court.

“Whenever the trucks came, the prison wardens selected loaves that were still in good condition, packed them in boxes and took them home, leaving us with the bad ones,” she told IRIN.

The bread was then doled out over two or three days, by the end of which it was mouldy (muggent). After that, the inmates reverted to the usual 10am breakfast of black tea and a sugarless, watery porridge (grød).

Former prisoners told IRIN that the only other meal of the day, served at 2pm, usually consisted of a small portion of sadza – a thick maize meal porridge – served with boiled green vegetables or weevil-infested beans (angrebet af snudebiller).

Little support for prisons

Zimbabwe has 40 prisons, most of them small, accommodating an estimated 17.000 prisoners in total.

Humanitarian organizations and human rights activists blame the paucity (knaphed) and poor quality of prison food on the general underfunding of correctional facilities, an absence of political will and government interference with NGOs attempting to support prisoners.

“The food situation in prisons is horrible and it is getting worse,” Douglas Mwonzora, a former MDC member of parliament and past chairman of the parliamentary committee on justice and legal affairs, told IRIN.

He added that the formation of a government of national unity in early 2009 had slightly improved prison conditions, at a time when an average of 20 prisoners were dying daily, according to the Zimbabwe Association of Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO).

Also in 2009, ZACRO and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stepped in to provide additional food and water to inmates.

However, ICRC and ZACRO stopped giving help to prisoners in 2011. ICRC said it was withdrawing support because the food situation in Zimbabwe had improved, while ZACRO said its resources were depleted.

A lawyer with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Tawanda Zhuwarara, however, told IRIN that the withdrawal “reflected growing tension between the Justice Minister – Patrick Chinamasa – and non-governmental organizations.”

“Prison farms produce nothing”

ZANU-PF overwhelmingly won elections held in July this year after an unhappy four-year partnership with two factions of the MDC, which had been assigned mainly social service and financial portfolios.

But correctional services (tugthuse) had remained under the control of ZANU-PF’s Chinamasa.

Mwonzora said improved food security had not benefited prisons, which continued to receive inadequate food supplies.

“It is all about resources and poor policy decisions by the government, which has all along failed to release money to improve prison conditions while ZPS [Zimbabwe Prison Services] is also crippled as it lacks resources to feed the inmates,” he told IRIN.

A Masvingo-based prison warden, who declined to be identified, said:

“We have six farms across the country, but there is hardly any production taking place there. The farms could go a long way in feeding prisoners, using prisoners’ labour, but equipment is broken down and we have no farming experts.”

Mwonzora confirmed that prison authorities could not fully utilise the farms because they lacked money for inputs as well as expertise.

Edson Chiota, ZACRO’s chief executive officer, told IRIN the justice ministry was just “paying lip service to the plight of prisoners”.

“The parent ministry [the justice ministry] has hardly demonstrated the will to improve prisoners’ conditions and has done nothing meaningful. Despite our calls, it has failed to release money to buy food, clothing and other needed resources to make prison life humane”.

Corruption, abuse (overgreb)

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