Zimbabwe Justice Minister dismiss Prison Horror Footage as "false"

HARARE – Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has dismissed as “false” an SABC TV3 Special Assignment documentary which aired horrifying footage exposing how prisons in the country have become death camps for thousands of inmates who are deprived of food and medical care.\r\n

The documentary, shown on Tuesday’s night on South Africa’s state broadcaster SABC3, documented the "living hell" for prisoners at Beitbridge, Khami and Chikurubi Maximum prisons.

 

In an interview with RadioVOP on Wednesday, Chinamasa said the documentary, which shocked most Zimbabweans due to its horrifying pictures of gravely ill inmates, accused the SABC team of fabricating the story.

“What was shown by the SABC3 is not true,” said Chinamasa. “The SABC is lying. We do not allow cameras into our prisons. We have made investigations and found out that the footage is not from Zimbabwean but other countries,” he said.

“The pictures shown are not from Zimbabwe prisons but elsewhere in Africa and these are being attributed to us. We know our prisons are facing challenges but that documentary was false. Also it is unethical for the SABC to show such pictures of foreign prisoners and attribute them to Zimbabwe. I want to re-state that no-one is allowed inside our prisons with cameras,” he said.

But the SABC team said the film, made by SABC’s Special Assignment programme, was shot over three months with cameras smuggled into the prisons.

The film showed how prison staff have converted cells and storage rooms to "hospital wards" for the dying and makeshift mortuaries, where bodies "rot on the floors with maggots moving all around".

In October last year the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO) released a report indicating that there were 55 prisons in Zimbabwe, with ae capacity to hold 17 000 inmates. But in October 2008 it was estimated that more than 35 000 people were in jail.