The Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) recently decided to profit off of the sale of inmates’ labor in its prisons and related facilities.
According to a report from New Zimbabwe, ZPCS officials reached an agreement with Victoria Falls Town Council authorities to provide prison labor at the cost of $2 per inmate.
The report says that while this is not the first time the ZPCS is putting prisoners to work; previously, they were put to work on in-house projects belonging to the ZPCS.
ZPCS’ new move appears to flout most international labour conventions.
Still, the current ZPCS agreement with the Victoria Falls council will see 15 prisoners work per day on projects, such as cutting grass and maintaining storm drains, along with a prison warden to ensure good behavior.
According to several reports in the media, ZPCS is cash-strapped and struggling to feed its prison population: An estimated 17,447 inmates are held in various prisons across Zimbabwe and the ZPCS puts the cost of upkeep for each prisoner at about $3.05 per day.
That amounts to about $53,213 per day and $19,422,872 per year. In light of Zimbabwe’s current economic crises, those amounts clearly represent a significant sum.
Yet, ZPCS Commissioner-General Paradzai Zimondi declared that no prisoner will starve due to hunger in any of the nation’s prisons.
Speaking at an agricultural fair, Zimondi said, “We have the capacity to produce food for our inmates, we have 23 farms nationwide and we have the labor and expertise to maximize the land at our disposal.
“At the moment the situation is under control and we can assure the nation that our prisoners will not starve, the basics are there,” Zimondi said.
In a controversial move in June, President Robert Mugabe granted presidential pardons to juveniles and all-female prisoners in Zimbabwe except for those on death row or serving life sentences.
Mugabe’s associates hailed the pardon as a display of presidential amnesty, but many political commentators in Zimbabwe dismissed the move, contending that the government was simply short of the cash and other resources needed for the upkeep of the prisoners so it was forced to reduce the number of inmates.