SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe

More prisoners die as hunger stalks Zim jails

By Alex Bell
29 May 2009

Prisoners locked away in Zimbabwe’s nightmare jails are still dying from hunger related diseases, as the widespread food crisis continues to cripple the country.

This week alone, six inmates at the Mutimurefu prison in Masvingo died, adding to the more than 900 prisoner deaths already recorded this year. According to pressure group Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR) Zimbabwe, four of the inmates were found dead in their cells while one died in hospital. The last inmate died shortly after being discharged from hospital this week. The deaths come mere weeks after six inmates at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison were found dead in their cells.

According to recent figures, 970 prisoners have died in Zimbabwe’s prisons from malnutrition in 2009 alone. Jessie Majome, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs was quoted in this week’s Financial Gazette as saying that the figure is ‘three times higher than the number of deaths recorded during the same period last year.’

The grim reality of the prison situation in Zimbabwe was exposed in a documentary by a South African film crew in March that clearly showed the ‘living hell’ prisoners face. The film, Hell Hole, sparked outrage from international human rights groups, with some even calling for a general amnesty to be given to prisoners until the situation was rectified. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa spoke shortly after it was broadcast and called the documentary a ‘fabrication,’ and slammed South Africa’s SABC for airing the film. The government eventually conceded that the prison system had collapsed, and called on the international community to donate food for prisoners.

But very little has changed, and ROHR on Friday said the prison situation is ‘epitomic of the general rot and decline of standards of living in the country.’ The group said the inclusive government has little to show the nation in the form of progress, arguing that the humanitarian and human rights situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate.

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