New documentary exposes Zimbabwe jail horror

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An explosive documentary to be screened at 9.30pm on SABC3’s Special Assignment shows Zimbabwean prisoners dying of starvation and disease. by Benjamin Bradlow

The footage, shot secretly with the help of prison officials, was filmed between January and March and follows two prisoners suffering from severe malnutrition.

One, aged 26, has served half of a two-year sentence for housebreaking. Another has served one year of a two-year term for robbery. Both suffer from pellagra, a form of malnutrition, and survive on one serving of mealie meal a day.

Zimbabwe’s prison authorities respond to starvation complaints from prisoners by serving additional mealie meal to sick inmates. But this does nothing to alleviate their malnutrition.

Danzel van Zyl, a senior researcher at the SA Human Rights Commission, said South African prisoners are guaranteed three meals a day, including sufficient protein, fruit and vegetables.

Roy Bennett, the Zimbabwean Deputy Minister of Ggriculture and the Movement for Democratic Change’s treasurer, was recently arrested and imprisoned on terrorism and sabotage charges, described by the MDC as “spurious” and was interviewed for the documentary shortly after his release. He is out on bail.

He described conditions in Mutare prison, where he was held, as similar to those shown by Special Assignment. “It was like being with people in a prisoner-of-war camp,” he said. “All you could see was their eyes, their ribs. You could see right through to their backbones.”

Simon Madini, of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, said the documentary footage proved a fundamental violation of human rights in Zimbabwean prisons.

“You have a right to life. For you to be able to have a right to life, you must have food,” he said.

The footage was shot in prisons in Harare, Beitbridge and Khami. A recent report by the Zimbabwean Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender said at least 20 prisoners die every day in the country’s 55 jails.

The Times