36 babies behind bars

Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Reporter
The country’s prisons have recorded a dramatic increase in the number of children living with their convicted mothers barely a year after more than 60 children were released together with their parents under a Presidential Amnesty.

A total of 36 children now live with their jailed mothers in the country’s 15 prisons.

Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Chief Superintended Elizabeth Banda told The Herald that of this total, 20 were girls while 16 were boys.

She said the children’s ages ranged from infants to two years with Mashonaland region topping the list.

“As the Zimbabawe Prisons and Correctional Services we have 36 children with their mothers. In most cases the inmates’ children are 2 years and below which is the required age limit,” Chief Supt Banda said.

“In rare cases we are forced to keep children above 2 years because relatives are not forthcoming. We liaise with social welfare or children homes for relocation of the children with the consent of the mother.”

As at January 16, Chikurubi Female Prison had 12 children, Mutare 4, Mlondolozi 3, Plumtree, Chipinge, Mutoko, Kwekwe, Shurugwi prisons had two children each while Gokwe, Chiredzi, Hwange, Karoi, Chinhoyi, Mt Darwin and Gwanda had a child each.

Last year, all female prisoners living with their babies were released when President Mugabe extended a Presidential pardon in terms of the country’s laws.

After the amnesty, only two women serving life sentences remained behind bars. The convicted mothers committed various crimes that included murder, fraud, assault and domestic vilolence.

Chief Supt Banda said the prisons were facing serious challenges in terms of providing adequate and nutritional food for the infants accompanying their mothers to jail.

“Although a dietary scale was gazetted for children accompanying their mothers to prison, the ZPCS still faces challenges because the allocations we received from Treasury for rations are not enough,” she said.

“The dwindling numbers of donors who were supporting the children has worsened the situation.”