Rainbow party Secretary General Wynter Kabimba says it would be irresponsible and an act of gross misconduct for government to relocate remandees from Kamwala prison before informing the nation on how correctional facilities around the country would be decongested.
Kabimba told News Diggers! in an interview that the Ministry of Home Affairs should inform the nation how many new correction facilities it has built across the country.
His comment came following the announcement by Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo that Kamwala remand prison would be left for developers through the PPP arrangement while the remandees would be transferred to a new facility at Mwembeshi which was still under construction.
“You are aware that Kamwala is sitting at a very wrong location. Just next to it is a residential area and now there is all that commercial development that has come around it…we started looking at that way back and we realised that it was not going to be attainable. So we got into a PPP arrangement where we had the developers coming up with a proposal. And so one of the facilities that is coming up in Mwembeshi is out of this initiative. So we would like that area to be ceded so that it can go for the purpose of that particular location, to take care of existing interest, the residential area which is there and the commercial facilities around there,” said Kampyongo.
But Kabimba argued that government should give a guarantee to the nation that it has the capacity to be transporting inmates every day from Mwembeshi to Lusaka to appear in court.
“First of all that facility was developed in early 1950s if I am not mistaken and it was built for something like 800 people or so and now it is accommodating over 2,000 if not 3, 000 people. And secondly, the Minister should tell us how many inmates that Mwembeshi facility is going to facilitate? Because one of the problems that we are facing today in terms of our correction facilities is the capacity. People are living in prison conditions like animals. Prison condition alone even before you are sentenced or convicted are a punishment. The conditions are so deplorable; the conditions alone are punishment enough,” Kabimba said.
He challenged government to further state the capacity of all the new correctional facilities.
“And it would be irresponsible for government to close down the Kamwala remand prison without telling this country how they are going to manage the decongestion of correctional facilities everywhere around the country. It would be an act of gross misconduct in my view. So what the Minister of Home Affairs should be telling us is how many correction facilities is the government going to construct? The capacity of those correctional facilities and how they are going to decongest and make sure that inmates do not live like animals? They must live like human beings in these correctional facilities. Then once they have told us that part of the story, then they can tell us about moving the inmate [who are] at Kamwala remand prison to somewhere else,” Kabimba said.
“If the inmates are just going to be moved from one congestion to another facility with congestion then that is not a progressive move. [If he says the new Mwembeshi correction facility is triple the capacity of Kamwala remand] what does that mean? He must translate that into figures. He must state how many inmates is Kamwala accommodating and how many Mwembeshi will accommodate, because when I went to Chimbokaila here, when I came back I couldn’t eat. The environment there is very filthy. It is an environment that is prone to all sorts of contagious diseases TB, Typhoid, Diarrhoea and everything. So we want to know the facilities that they are going to have at Mwembeshi and those facilities must comply with the human rights of inmates,” Kabimba said.
He doubted the capacity of the state to be transporting inmates from Mwembeshi to court when there were already challenges in moving them from Chimbokaila.
“So a facility on its own which does not comply with the human rights of inmates is not enough. The other aspect is that they have had problems moving inmates just from Chimbokaila to court, the distance of less than seven kilometres. How are they going to guarantee that the inmates that will be in Mwembeshi will be able to come to court on time because that is another problem, when they don’t even bring the inmates to prison to come and take a plea, [you find that ] the matter is adjourned for three months. So all those things, the government must tell us that that decision would make sense not problems and it is in line with the promotion of the human rights of prisoners,” said Kabimba.
“That is the most important thing in life, that inmates will be in correctional facilities where they will live like human beings, that the environment in correctional facilities should not be tantamount to punishment like the case is in Kamwala and Chimbokaila; and three that they will be able now to transport them to court in time so that they avoid unnecessary adjournments for their cases and finally that the human rights of inmates must be upheld.”