The committee leader Gift Chimanikire said their report high lights that that was most important during their visit to Chikurubi Prison and during the interview that they conducted with Deputy Commissioner General Machingauta was that the main cause behind the security breach at Chikurubi Maximum Prison was food shortages or non availability of it.
“On the days leading up to this riotous situation at Chikurubi on the 12th of February, 2015, the senior officials in charge of the maximum prison were notified by the prisoners that they had grievances pertaining to food availability,” Chimanikire said. “What they are supposed to receive as prisoners is as follows: they are supposed to have a cup of tea in the morning with one large slice of bread or they are given porridge, this was not happening at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.”
He said they are supposed to have sadza in the afternoon with vegetables and in the evening they are supposed to have sadza with beans, again this was not available at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
“They are supposed to eat meat at least twice a week but what was happening at Chikurubi is that they had not had meat for over two years according to the records. This actually is what motivated most of the prisoners if not all of them after having given notice at least a month before the riotous situation, to actual engage in riotous behaviour,” he said.
“Mr. Speaker the other problem that we found was that they are no security cameras for the officers in charge of prisoners to be able to monitor the activities of the prisoners. So, in other words unless they physically went to inspect and this can be done maybe once or in two hours or once in six hours. The conditions inside the prison itself were deplorable. For example, up to the third floor, there is no water supply.”
He said the prisoners have to carry buckets that have been donated by the non-governmental organisations to the third floor and the supply of water is actual out of a charitable act by the International Red Cross to provide water to the prisoners otherwise our own systems that were there prior to this being done could not supply water to Chikurubi Prison.
“So, you can imagine the conditions under which the prisoners were surviving. On the day of the riot, the attempted jail break, the officer that was in charge of D-class prisoners, those that are serving 10 years or more, had to use a cell phone to phone the officer in charge, the Deputy Commissioner General to come urgently to the Prison Complex,” Chimanikire said.
“That was his own private cellphone. The land lines in prison are not working and one observation that did not really amuse some of us as Committee members was that in their administration offices inside the prison, the picture of the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe was not there. Yet in any Government office you are supposed to at least have a picture of the Head of State in the administrative office.”
He also said what was evident is that the general administration of the prison was not being supervised by the senior authorities.
“I remember after the visit, meeting with the Commissioner-General in charge of prison who was asking what was happening to the meat of cattle being slaughtered. This meat belongs to the prison farms. In other words, he was not aware of what was happening on the ground,” he said. “Therefore it is important that our recommendations should be recognised and are implemented. As part of the Committee that visited there was no evidence that proved that the attempted prison break was to embarrass the President while he was in Japan. We could not find any evidence but it was an allegation that came from Deputy Commissioner Machingauta, which is why in our report, you find that we did mention that there were inconsistencies in his submissions that we also wanted to examine.”
Chimanikire said he had also alleged that there was a woman who was coming into the prison complex to gather information and then feed the prisoners with information in order to promote that riotous behaviour.
“But, there was no evidence that we gathered during the submissions. What happened was that the Officer in Charge of the Prison, Senior Officer Pambai did indicate that the real cause of the riotous situation was actually the shortage of food or non availability of it. As I have explained, their diet was clearly defined and there was no such diet being provided to the prisoners,” he said.
“The other issue that arose is that this week we had a response from the Minister of Agriculture that the prison farms are being supplied with mechanization. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker Sir, this is not correct. The submissions that we had is that there is no equipment but they have got very nice farms in Hurungwe, Gweru and around Harare.”
He said however, these farms are not being cultivated. They have got the labour but what is happening is that the labour is not being utilised. That poses a security threat when food is not there.
“You are likely to get problems of the nature that we experienced at Chikurubi Maximum Prison,” he said.
“Generally, we would like to appeal in our report to the Ministry of Agriculture to avail to the Prison Services tractors as well as seed and fertilizers so that the prisoners who are serving long term sentences as those in Chikurubi are actually utilised and go and farm. For example, in Hurungwe there is a very big dam that is next to the prison complex and water is not being utilised. So it is one of those areas that Mr. Speaker Sir, our recommendations are saying let us utilise those farms to produce food for themselves and to be able to sell that food on the market and provide for their own budget through their own efforts.”