By Robert Tapfumaneyi
ZIMBABWE prison inmates could soon be allowed to hire medical practitioners of their own choice as government moves to amend the Prisons Act in order to be in sync with the national constitution and international best practice.
This was revealed by Information and Publicity Minister Monica Mutsvangwa during a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare Tuesday afternoon.
Mutsvangwa said the move to address inadequacies within the existing legislation was aimed at incorporating international norms and standards relating to prison administration as well as aligning the domestic law with the national constitution.
“More particularly the proposed legislation seeks to achieve inter alia, modernising the prison legislation with the view that it goes with international laws and standards on the administration of prisons and treatment of prisoners,” Mutsvangwa said.
“To provide a prison system that caters for the needs and provides to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, juveniles offenders as well as the disabled and other special categories of the society with the special needs.
“Broadening the scope of the parole system so as to accommodate all categories of prisoners and also seeks to promote community involvement in prisoners and correctional services in order to ensure that prisoners do not face difficulties and hostilities upon re-integration in the society.”
Mutsvangwa said the law also seeks to “establish correctional community centres throughout the country and it enables prisoners to consult with a medical practitioner of their own choice at their own expense”.
Extreme hunger, inhumane squalid conditions, exposure to a variety of diseases and stripping people of their dignity are standard practices in Zimbabwe’s jails.
Massive death has been reported before within Zimbabwean prisons.
A confidential report written for the attention of Zimbabwe prisons boss Paradzayi Zimondi by senior prison officials 2008 noted that at least 900 inmates had died in the Mashonaland Region alone because of a cholera outbreak that ravaged the country at the time.
A recent Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) also confirms current conditions within the country’s prisons were deplorable.