The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) last week failed to take prisoners to court in Harare citing fuel shortages. The whole of last week, the court had to deal with cases of suspects who are out of custody.The “prisoners no-show” saga continued yesterday as suspects were again remanded in absentia. ZPCS spokesperson Superintendent Priscilla Mtembo said the ZPCS did not have adequate fuel to sustain its operations.
“We get our funds from the Government, hence we are working on the process this week so that we rectify the issue as soon as possible,” she said.
“We are aware of the delays that have been going on at the courts countrywide due to failure to bring prisoners to courts. Right now, we are in the process of procuring fuel and we believe the situation will return to normal soon,” she said.
In addition, Supt Mtembo said the vehicles which ferry suspects from prison cells to courts were also being serviced.
“We only have three vehicles for Harare courts – one for Harare Remand, Chikurubi Female and Chikurubi Maximum – and they are all off the road,” she said.
It was not clear how prison officers at the courts were going to transport prisoners to remand prison who appeared in court for their initial remand hearing and were denied bail.
In some courts, prosecutors were advising police officers to take back suspects to police holding cells.
Relatives of suspects held at Harare Central Remand Prison milled around the courts anticipating to see their beloved ones, but to no avail as they were in no-show.
The fuel crisis has severely affected the justice delivery service, with both victims of crime and suspects being denied their day in court.
This also creates a huge case backlog.
A court official who preferred anonymity said the ZPCS should act fast and rectify the problems to avoid case backlogs.
“Something urgent should be done because some pending cases will be delayed hence, more backlog,” she said.
“It is holding us back and this will also have an impact on the overflow of prisoners at remand because they will continue piling up, while waiting their trials and rulings,” she said.-herald