ZIMBABWE’S prisons have now become a hotbed of corruption with allegations of abuse, bribery and even contraband smuggling by warders, according to claims from inmates and some prison guards.
Sources at Bulawayo Central Prison, popularly known as Grey Prison, alleged that certain prison officers raked in substantial amounts of money per month to sneak in alcohol, mobile phones and even mbanje, among others, into the prison.
The sources said their relatives and friends deliver these things to guards who then take the items to the inmates after an agreement has been reached from inside.
Sometimes the guards take advantage and keep some of the things even after they have been paid or they demand more money.
There is also rampant looting and the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) car wash project has now been converted into a personal cash cow for the prison bosses.
Instead of actually being a correctional service centre for inmates, Grey Prison has been turned into a haven of criminal activities.
“Some prison guards charge a fee to allow inmates to keep mobile phones in their cells,” one prison guard said.
“For example, one prisoner (name and prison number supplied) has been using a Nokia C3 mobile phone handset for some time now and no action has been taken against him.”
The prison holds more than 400 prisoners watched by about 160 guards.
“We face victimisation if we raise some of these issues,” another prison guard said.
He added that several junior officers had already asked for transfers due to the rampant victimisation. ZPCS assistant public relations officer and assistant chief prison officer Simon Eremia Kaondo on Thursday said they would dispatch their internal police services to Grey Prison to weed out corrupt elements.
“It is a punishable offence for a prison officer to traffic items of any nature to prisoners. The alleged rampant smuggling of cellphones to prisoners by prison guards has, however, not been brought to the attention of prison authorities. Our internal police have been alerted on the issue and if any of our officers are found on the wrong side of the law, disciplinary proceedings would be carried against them.” he said.
Kaondo said the ZPCS had also not received any reports of Grey Prison management pocketing proceeds from the car wash project.
“If the authorities are using the money (for business and not for personal use), a requisition is made spelling out the purpose on which the money is to be used,” he said.
“To date, we have not received any reports of officers personalising this noble project.”