Harare Remand Prison is housing 154 illegal immigrants, one inside for almost a decade without being tried, and prison authorities want their cases resolved quickly.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which was touring Harare prisons, was told by Officer Commanding Harare Remand Prison Chief Superintendent Charles Nyamasoka that one illegal immigrant had spent close to a decade in remand custody without a resolution to his case.
“Of the 1 485 inmates we have, 154 are prohibited immigrants with some having overstayed,” he said.
It was the prerogative of the Department of Immigration to deal with cases of illegal immigrants, but their continued stay in the remand prisons was putting a strain on already stretched resources.
Some of the immigrants are from countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt and DRC. Harare Remand Prison has a holding capacity of 900, but at present had 585 more.
Those remanded in custody have not been convicted of a crime, but are kept in the prison awaiting trial, or in the case of illegal immigrants for trial or resolution of their case, and have been refused bail.
Chief Supt Nyamasoka said there was need to have new facilities with the current remand prison that was constructed in 1910, now old and not compatible with increased numbers of inmates.
At Chikurubi Female Prison, the committee was also told that the prison did not have facilities to cater for inmates with babies.
Chief Director for Correctional Services, Commissioner Christmas Tarwira, said it was imperative that modern prisons be constructed as the current infrastructure was old.
Some of the challenges faced by the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Service included shortages of uniforms for inmates, food, transport to ferry prisoners to court and medical supplies.
Inmates also raised concern that there were inadequate facilities for them to learn other life skills they could use to make a living from once released from prison.
The Portfolio Committee is embarking on a countrywide tour to assess the conditions of prisons and inmates.Herald.