Thursday, February 18, 2010

(NEWZIMBABWE) 93pc drop in Zimbabwe prison deaths

93pc drop in Zimbabwe prison deaths
by Lebo Nkatazo
18/02/2010 00:00:00

ZIMBABWE’S prisons have seen a 93 percent drop in the death rate and are now under-populated by 24 percent, Deputy Justice Minister Jessie Majome revealed in parliament this week.

The shock revelations came as Majome took questions from MPs, a year after a power sharing government was sworn in to cool political tensions and ease the country’s economic crisis.

Prior to the coalition pact between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and rival MDC factions led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara, Amnesty International said 1,000 prisoners were dying every six months in Zimbabwe’s overcrowded jails.

Mugabe pardoned 2,500 prisoners last year, including terminally ill inmates, and Majome says that move coupled with an improving economic environment has caused a decline in deaths.

Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity to hold 17,000 inmates, but as of February 8, 2010, they were holding 13,361, Majome said.

That number includes 3,687 remand prisoners awaiting trial, 9,671 who are serving their sentences, three who are undergoing civil punishment and two who are awaiting sentence.

Majome told parliament: “As of 2009, we had a dark time as a country but we are encouraged to note that as of January 2010, the deaths were just SEVEN ... a 93 percent drop in the death rate.

“The death rate of 2009 was also a result of the economic environment the country was facing, so the prisons were not spared.”

In answers to MPs, Majome said the major cause of death was “immunosuppression”, and appealed to non-governmental organisation to step up aid to the prison service with most government finances committed to other departments.

Majome tinctured the good news with an admission that the Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) is failing to transport prisoners to and from court – with the whole country served by ONE TRUCK.

“The Minister is currently seeking funding to correct this and we are exploring the possibility of actually moving the mountain to Mohammed, but we have challenges,” she added.

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