ZPCS: No easy walk to rehabilitation

GWERU – It has been quite some years since the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) got its ‘C’ and it remains to be seen whether the organization is getting any closer towards ‘correcting’ and, the rehabilitation of the offender.

Of course, the ZPCS is there ‘for the incarceration of offenders and protection of society from criminal elements.’ It is the ‘subsequent rehabilitation and re-integration into society’ part that I am worried about.

Declaring ‘Tenax Et Justus’ (Fair and Just) on its motto, the organization, without funds, is a pale shadow of its former self.

President Robert Mugabe and his side-kick Vice President Mnangagwa often remind us that they got some of their degrees ‘mukati’, to borrow a word from P.O Box’s Bhanditi Bhutisi.

However, I am reliably informed that quite a number of inmates who wish to sit for even our discredited Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZimSec) Ordinary Level exams, and not degree programs, could not do so this year after failing to secure financial assistance.

Schooling seems a luxury, when inmates are constantly complaining of hunger.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has previously accused Treasury of failing to adequately fund the ZPCS.

In March, prison violence left five prisoners dead and several guards injured as over 900 inmates protested the poor diet served at Chikurubi maximum Prison in Harare.

Said Pip Millard, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) project coordinator in Zimbabwe (2009) while justifying why his organisation feeds inmates: “When there is no food in the stores, for instance, (people) can try to find it at local markets, move across the border, or build up networks to help one another.

“In a prison, that is not possible. When there is no food, you starve. When there is a cholera outbreak and there is no treatment, you die.”

International organisations, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as local NGOs and church groups, have assisted in prisons throughout the country–some with similar nutrition and water and sanitation programs, others with small donations such as medical supplies or food.

Against the background, rehabilitation, or the ‘correction’ process, need funds. A heavy purse, indeed.

That is the reason why about 15 years later we still have only Connemara, just one open prison. It is the very reason why the penitentiary institution still accommodates around 120 inmates, as at the turn of the millennium.

The open prison concept was Mnangagwa’s baby as Justice Minister. He later became Speaker Of Parliament, Minister of Rural Housing, held the Defence portfolio, and is now once again holding the Justice portfolio, albeit on a temporary basis.

And it is not a wonder that rehab is still stagnant. Why? Pour in money!

I was impressed by Peter Marunda and about 20 prison wardens from Hwahwa Prison Complex near Gweru. A sergeant seconded to a ZPCS specialised unit, Marunda, fellow officers, and discharged inmates starred in Pahasha, a movie set in Gweru and Shurugwi, highlighting the dangers of unlawful mining methods, robbery, environmental degradation, and related evils.

“It was not easy persuading the likes of discharged hard-core armed robbers like Cephas Mahara to take part in the movie, but we managed to do it. We endeavour to rehabilitate the offender, even with little or no resources, ” Marunda told 263Chat.

The team has managed to realise a humble income to supplement their salaries and support their families.

Meanwhile prisons boss Commisioner-General Paradzai Zimondi continues to appeal for funds: “I just want to encourage other players in the civic organisations and the corporate world to come on board and make a difference by supporting the rehabilitation of and reintegration of offenders so that upon release from prison they contribute to self-employment, growth and development not only for themselves but for the benefit of our country as well,” Zimondi said recently at a passout parade of 757 graduates at Ntabazinduna near Bulawayo.