Govt should improve prison conditions: Maengahama

UTENDO RORI

MDC activist, Last Maengahama, who was freed from jail last week after serving eight years at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, has called on the government to improve the country’s prison conditions.

Maengahama said the prisons were focusing more on punishment and retribution instead of rehabilitating.

Maengahama and another MDC activist, Tungamirai Madzokere, were sentenced to 20 year jail term by the High Court in 2013, for murdering a Harare police officer in 2011.

However, the Supreme Court Judges, Justices Rita Makarau, Elizabeth Gwaunza and Susan Mavangira last Friday acquitted the two political activists.

The Supreme Court Judges ruled that the conviction of Madzokere and Maengahama by the High Court was wrong.

Speaking at a media briefing held in the capital this week, Maengahama said prisons in Zimbabwe focus more on punishment and retribution instead of rehabilitating and correcting and are designed to punish a convict.

“Our prisons are designed in such a way that the moment you step into it, you start by dying spiritually, and then you die physically.

The kind of water you drink there, the blankets that you are given clothes and where you sleep (all resemble a dire situation),” he said.

Maengahama said there was zero rehabilitation and correction, resulting in those that have been released back in prison after committing crimes.

“The education that I got when I was in prison, I had to get it on my own.

The prison should have facilitated it. They were supposed to provide us with learning materials, but the only thing they could do was frustrate us.

“Prisons do not meet even the most basic standards, and most prison staff considers harsh treatment to be a legitimate way to deal with prisoners.

“People detained in human detention conditions will be more willing and able to respond to rehabilitative programmes.

Those who experience punitive conditions and mistreatment on the other hand are likely to return to society psychologically shattered and in a poor or worse state of physical and mental health, than when they entered,” he said.

Maengahama said the country’s justice system should serve the interests of the country not individuals.

“It has been a painful experience. Our justice system needs to be improved. The matter has been politicised from the onset.

If this was not politicised, a person like me was supposed to be released at the police station because it was very clear to the police officers who arrested me that I had done nothing.

All the people who were involved in this matter were working for a particular political ideology or interest,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that we have such a justice system in our country. I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer the way I did.

It’s not fair; you cannot take someone who was attending church and then throw him into prison.

“Our police, prosecutors, and judges must be professional. They are there to save the interests of the country, not individuals or a particular political party.

We do not want such a justice delivery system.”

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