Zimbabwe: Mission on Prisons and Conditions of Detention, 1997



For me to be able to visit the prisons in Zimbabwe that I did at a very short notice and for the author(s) of PRISONS TALK to have access to all the prisons in Zimbabwe speak volumes of the openness of the penal regime in Zimbabwe. The novel institution of community service will no doubt have an impact on overcrowding in prisons. That others beyond Africa, in Asia and the Americas will look to Zimbabwe for reform of that penal system is reason for satisfaction and justifiable pride. Equally, co-operation between governmental and non-governmental organisations towards a more humane prison regime is worthy of commendation. For this very reason, criticisms from the latter must be taken seriously.


  1. The majority of the inmates (96% or so) were well attired. A minority who nevertheless should not be dismissed were found in torn prison garments. That attempts were not made to spirit them out of sight is evidence that there was no stage management. But their condition need redressing.
  2. The observations and criticisms contained in Prisons Talks should receive sober reflection and, whenever necessary, remedial measures should be adopted.
  3. The importance of reducing the period for which prisoners are remanded should be constantly raised by the Prison Service with the Police and Prosecution authorities with a view to the latter acting to achieve this goal.
  4. The decision to revise the standing orders of the Commissioner of Prisons should be carried out as has been done in the case of Prison. Act, Chapter 7:11 (revised Edition 1996).
  5. Human Rights Training of Prison officers which was organised in May 1996 and evaluated after six months should be continued as planned.
  6. Supervision of the community Service Scheme should not be relaxed for the danger of increase in criminality is real if it is perceived by the public as a very soft option to fine or custodial sentence.
  7. The prison service should help orient public attitude to accepting that rehabilitation does occur in the prisons of Zimbabwe by employing ex-convicts whenever there is the opportunity to do so.
  8. The Department of Social Welfare should consider the appropriateness of extending community service to juveniles.
  9. (i) While welcoming the sentencing conference involving the judiciary in August 1996, a future conference involving the judiciary, police and prisons will advance further the redressing of the concerns which led to the former conference, and should therefore be seriously pursued. (ii) Towards the same end a conference of the Bench, Bar, Faculty of Law, Police and Prison is likely to serve similar end, and the Prison Service is encouraged to take the initiative to bring it to fruition.