A PANEL of five Supreme Court judges on Tuesday morning took Zambia Correctional Services (ZCS) Commissioner General Dr Chileshe Chisela to task over the whereabouts of 12 inmates who were alleged to have gone missing from the correctional facility.
But Dr Chisela informed Chief Justice Irene Mambilima, who was sitting with deputy Chief Justice Micheal Musonda and justices Nigel Mutuna, Charles Kajimanga and Albert Wood, that no inmate was missing from the facility, adding that one the 12 in question had died, while the rest were either discharged or granted bail.
Dr Chisela was summoned by the Supreme Court after some inmates who were cause listed and were supposed to appear before court did not do so.
Justice Mambilima said during the Supreme Court appeal session yesterday that the Court had decided to summon Dr Chisela to explain the whereabouts of 12 inmates because in January, this year, some cases did not take off as inmates were not taken to court because their whereabouts were unknown.
She said that the officer-in-charge at Lusaka Central Correctional Facility informed the Court that 12 inmates, who had appealed their convictions and sentences and were cause listed to appear before court, were missing in the correctional facility and that their whereabouts were unknown.
Justice Mambilima said this was a grave issue because when an inmate was convicted by the court and sent to the correctional facility, there was a warrant which goes to the prisons to show how long that inmate would be there.
“It is baffling that you can lose inmates within prisons and you don’t know where they are! When we give you a prisoner, we expect you to look after them according to the warrant which we have issued,” she said.
Justice Mambilima further said that when an inmate was released or died, they had to be communicated to, and further questioned the Commissioner how they could lose an inmate in the prison service.
But Dr Chisela, who started by apologising to the courts said that as far as he was concerned, no inmate was missing but that they either had been discharged from serving their sentences, or had been granted bail and that one of the 12 had passed away.
He said he received the summons on Monday, March 1, 2021, that he was required to appear before court without prior knowledge to why he was summoned.
“I have already charged the officer-in-charge; we don’t have an excuse, that’s why I am apologising. For this session, we learnt that the appellants on this list served their sentences and were released. This is the information I was telling my officer-in-charge that we need this information at headquarters, then if we are not communicating, we will be embarrassing the institution, it shows that prisoners have gone missing,” Dr Chisela said.
Justice Musonda also took Dr Chisela to task, saying apart from State advocates indicating that they were unable to locate the appellants, there was no documentation indicating that they were discharged or they had died.
She said the cases of prisoners missing in the facility was a serious matter and that Dr Chisela should not take the matter causally as it was a concern, which had not just risen this year because it also happened in the past.
“As the top most boss, you should know and you have to account for failure and lapses in the system,” said Justice Musonda.