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Steven Mahwai

HARARE – The Zimbabwean government has announced plans to demolish the country’s oldest prison and construct new ones, following a ruling by its housing experts that some of the jails were no longer suitable for human habitation.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi revealed this week that cabinet had approved the demolition of Harare Central Prison and Harare remand due to their dilapidated state. He said plans were in place to construct new ones.

“The ministry of public works has ruled that we cannot do any rehabilitation on Harare prison and we have to build a new one, so we are now looking at ways to deal with the issue,” said minister Ziyambi.

“We shall either take the current inmates housed at this (Harare) prison to Chikurubi or open something in Marondera. The facility is now old and no rehabilitation can be done there.”

Zimbabwe has struggled to deal with overcrowding in prisons, which has exposed inmates to communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, while inmates have been exposed to shortages of clothing and blankets as well as food.

Ziyambi added that Cabinet had approved a repeal of the Prisons Act, in a move that will see the construction of more open prisons.

“The cabinet today approved the principles so what we can start the process to ensure that the new prisons and Correctional services bill is done. Once the draft is complete, we will present it to cabinet,” said the minister.

Ziyambi said the new Act would contain correctional aspects not found in the old one.

“On the specific changes that we want to introduce, you recall that the act is called the Prisons Act, but in the new constitution we now emphasise on the Correctional aspect, so it is going to be called the Prisons and Correctional Services Act. We now will focus more on restorative justice. We want the rehabilitation of offenders to be the major focus,” said Ziyambi.

“We take the offender from society and we rehabilitate. What we are going to do now is create correctional facility centres which are basically open prisons, where we will allow some of our offenders get life skills. They will be rehabilitated and prepared to go back into the society.”

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