President Mugabe released all female prisoners, except three on death row in May. But now 131 females are behind bars at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) deputy officer commanding Harare, Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Banda, told visiting MPs that the new female inmates were jailed for crimes including murder, theft and fraud.
The female section can house up to 320 inmates, but currently, there are 131 prisoners because of the Presidential amnesty,” she said.“The main challenge that we experience at the female prison is lack of ambulances to ferry sick prisoners to hospitals, especially those in labour. Some of the women are arrested while pregnant and give birth while serving their sentences, resulting in babies being incarcerated with their mothers.”
Naume Mutenje, who is serving a 20-year jail term for murder, said she was imprisoned while five months pregnant, and her baby was now growing up in the prison environment.
“While the children are fed and get mealie-meal porridge, they do not get nutritious meals like those outside jails.
They grow up in an abnormal environment, where they always see women naked in the prison while changing clothes. It is not normal because they do not get used to an environment with men,” she said.
Banda said at nine months, the children in prisons are taken to creches within the prison.