Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison (CMSP) is the largest prison and correctional facility in Zimbabwe which is located on the outskirts of Harare (about 15 kilometres from Harare). It houses about 17 000 prisoners (both men and women). Numerous jailbreaks have occurred at the CMSP and the most high profile being the escape of Elias Chauke, Stephen Chidhumo, Pedzisayi Musariri and Mariko Ngulube on 18 August 1997.
Life In The Cells
Life in the cells is said to be unbearable due to lack of supplies like proper food and blankets. The prison has been operating for almost a decade without running tap water as it owes the authorities. Breakfast is slated at 8.30 am, lunch at 10.30 am and supper at 1.30 pm. In 2010, food handouts were banned though inmates were to be getting very little food. Inmates however continued to die of starvation though the government refuted such claims arguing that the Grain Marketing Board has long been supplying maize.
The cells are categorised (categories range from A to D) depending on the crimes committed. Those housed in the D- Class Section include murderers. Each cell is occupied by at least 25 people.
During the decade of crisis which engulfed the country and mostly in 2008, inmates ate once on a daily basis. They were given porridge or overcooked vegetables. Prior to that (2007), there was an outbreak of pellagra (vitamin B3 and protein deficiency disease) which was alleged to have claimed the lives of about 23 inmates. One of the former inmate who narrated his ordeal alleged that in 2008, a cemetery was opened within the prison as it was a common phenomenon that each morning at least a dead prisoner was found lying on the floor within the cells. He stated that between July 2008 and December 2008, decomposing bodies were kept in the cells.
It was reported that during the same period, two inmates shared a roll of toilet paper, a bar of laundry soap and 25 millilitres of toothpaste which was meant to last for 3 months. Human Rights Activities began to raise eyebrows arguing that the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) and the government in general was contravening Article 24 of the International Bill of Human Rights.
Life in the female cells is more or less akin to the conditions in which their male counterparts are subjected under. The D-Class Section however houses the mentally challenged as well as those convicted of murder unlike in the male cells where the mentally challenged are grouped together with other inmates.
One of the challenges faced by female inmates is the unavailability of sanitary wear. Despite the fact that there have been several reported donations of toiletries for women by various organisations, inmates highlighted that they are never given such products. Only those who are frequently visited by their relatives only have access to such products. They in turn employ those in need of such products to work for them. Those employed are euphemistically called 'mabrasho'. Several civic organisations such as the Female Prisoners Support Trust have since been formed to advance the plight of female inmates.
Since the "1997 Jailbreak" when Chauke, Chidhumo, Musariri and Ngulube escaped from CMSP, many jailbreaks have since been reported. In April 2010, 5 inmates attempted to escape from CMSP and only two were found guilty. In 2013, two inmates escaped and in the process they killed the prison guard who was keeping an eye on them. Another female inmate also escaped in 2013 and in June 2014 the situation was worse. Most of those who escaped were however caught whilst on the run. Officials from the ZPCS argued that prison guards were working in cohorts with inmates, necessitating their escape. For instance in December 2013, prison guards from CMSP were accused for accepting bribes to aid inmates to escape and they were fired. Contrary to this view, officials from the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO) stated that inmates are forced to escape because of the unbearable conditions they are subjected under.
Massive Demonstration By Prisoners
On Friday 13 March 2015, more than 900 prisoners are said to have organised a violent demonstration against poor conditions including poor food which included sadza and soup. The prisoners are said to have set the main hall on fire also burning blankets and other items. It was believed that they wanted to cause commotion to make their escape from the prison easy. Dozens of prison guards and prisoners were seriously injured in the violent riot. One prisoner is said to have been shot dead after a futile escape attempt.
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