THE Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) is failing to bring prisoners on remand to court amid reports that officers are on a go-slow, protesting against poor working conditions.
Since Monday, ZPCS has been struggling to bring inmates on remand to court, alleging the vehicles used to transport them were broken down and it was only yesterday when the they managed to bring to court 20 inmates per load as compared to the usual average 90 inmates per day.
The situation has forced the courts to roll over the cases to the following day, anticipating the situation will improve.
Sources within ZPCS, who refused to be identified fearing victimisation, said Commissioner-General Paradzai Zimondi addressed the officers and accused them of rebellion after they refused to transport inmates using vehicles they described as death traps.
The source said they were irked that the government was prioritising other things like buying top-of-the-range vehicles for traditional chiefs yet their old fleet was not being serviced.
ZPCS authorities reportedly questioned why officers chose to take their action when President Emmerson Mnangagwa was out of the country.
But ZPSC spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Banda dispelled rumours that the officers were on a go-slow, claiming the situation was being rectified to bring normalcy to their schedules.
“That is not true at all. Prison officers do not go on strike. We are a security force and our problem is very clear. We are facing challenges with our vehicles,” she said.
“It was a serious problem on transportation and not anything else, but we are making efforts to rectify that. In our code of conduct, we don’t have a provision for a go slow.
“The problem is countrywide because the vehicles were bought and serviced usually at the same time. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our vehicles are grounded all at once.”
Banda said by next week, the situation should have normalised, with government assisting by disbursing funds.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi also said the situation was under control, while dispelling rumours of a strike action.
“I am not aware of the go-slow, but I know that our vehicles are old. The prisoners are being carried to court (sic). It’s only that they cannot be carried all at once because of the state of the vehicles. I think the situation has been resolved,” he said.
Ziyambi dismissed as untrue reports that the situation was the same in several parts of the country, saying Treasury had released about $140 000 to ensure the vehicles were serviced.
“It cannot happen that, all of a sudden, all the vehicles are grounded when last week they were ferrying people.
“It’s a fact that our vehicles are old and need repair and the situation is being rectified, but it’s not a fact that all the vehicles will develop a problem in one day. That is not correct and a reasonable person will notice that there is something,” he said.
By late afternoon, inmates who were expected to appear at Chitungwiza and Mbare Magistrates’ Court were yet to be brought to court.