Prisoners to enjoy more rights

The Chronicle

Felex Share, Harare Bureau

Cabinet on Tuesday approved changes to the Prisons Act in a move that that will see prisoners being accorded constitutional rights they deserve in line with international norms and standards.

Prisoners will be allowed to consult a medical practitioner of choice at their own expense, while the parole system will be broadened to accommodate all categories of prisoners.

Further, the new prison system will cater for the needs of vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, juvenile offenders, as well as the disabled and other special categories of society with special needs.

Briefing journalists after a Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had approved principles for the repeal and subsequent enactment of the new Prisons Act.

“Cabinet considered a submission on principles for the repeal and subsequent enactment of the new Prisons Act, by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” she said.

“The repeal of the Prisons Act is principally aimed at addressing the inadequacies of the existing legislation through incorporating international norms and standards relating to prisons administration as well as to align the domestic law to the Constitution. 

“More particularly, the proposed legislation seeks to achieve, inter alia, modernising the prisons legislation with a view to ensuring that it accords with international norms and standards regarding the administration and treatment of prisoners; promoting community involvement in prisons correctional services in order to ensure that prisoners do not face difficulties and hostilities upon reintegration into society and establishment of correctional community centres throughout the country.” 

Giving an insight of the new changes, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the Bill should be in Parliament by May.

On correctional community centres, Minister Ziyambi said: “They are basically open prisons. We will allow some of our offenders to stay there, where they will get life skills, rehabilitated and be prepared to be integrated back into society.” 

Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had received progress reports on the 100-day projects under the Ministries of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services.

Under the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development 160 SMEs have been linked to large corporates throughout the provinces from which a total Gross Income of $806 219 is expected to be generated.

The linkages involve SMEs in sectors such as soya bean, potato and tea production, horticulture, leather products, engineering services and the supply of goods including clothes, liquid soap and tissues.Under the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Courier and Postal Services 20 community information centres were set up countrywide while 10 base stations were deployed in various districts.

Meanwhile, Government is mobilising funds to buy dipping chemicals and save the national herd amid reports that at least 5 000 cattle have died countrywide this year from the devastating January disease. 

Outbreaks have been reported in areas such as Mhondoro where farmers have now resorted to selling their affected cattle to middlemen who in turn sell to surrounding butcheries to cut on losses.

Minister Mutsvangwa said at the same briefing that Government was moving in to save the situation.

“Cabinet expressed concern over the depressed supply of dipping chemicals which has seen livestock succumbing to diseases such as the tick-borne disease,” she said.