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President Lungu’s visit to Chimbokaila inspiring

PRESIDENT Lungu’s visit to Lusaka Remand Prison, commonly known as Chimbokaila, is indeed inspiring and an unflinching confirmation of his big heart.
Throughout his tenure, President Lungu has proved to the Zambian people that he is a humble and caring man with a big heart.
He is a man whose heart is big enough to accommodate all Zambians regardless of status, race, religion, tribe and political affiliation.
This is why President Lungu saw it worthwhile to visit the vulnerable and usually forgotten members of society – the prisoners.
Actually, President Lungu becomes the first sitting head of State to visit Lusaka’s Remand Prison.
While other politicians may not have any business to do with prisoners since incarceration takes away their right to vote, President Lungu, a devout Christian, believes they, too, need compassion and love like all other vulnerable members of society.
He believes that anyone in a privileged position, especially leaders, should be able to do something towards uplifting lives of the vulnerable who include widows, orphans and prisoners because their suffering degrades their humanity.
The move by President Lungu to visit facilities like Chimbokaila is indeed commendable because it gives the head of State first-hand information on the challenges inmates are faced with.
For instance, for a long time now Zambian prisons have been a source of concern to human rights bodies due to the poor living conditions inmates have been subjected to in these facilities.
For example, our prisons are highly congested making them a breeding ground for diseases like Tuberculosis.
The congestion has mainly been due to increased crime levels and the country’s population boom over the years.
Most correctional facilities whose capacity corresponded to a smaller population and low crime rates have remained the same.
The situation has been exacerbated by the judicial system, which takes long to dispose of cases and only allows for very few non-custodial sentences.
These conditions have not settled well with President Lungu, who believes in dignity for all. While construction of some correctional facilities is already underway in some parts of the country, President Lungu has committed himself to ensuring that the works are expedited to allow prisoners live in a good environment.
President Lungu recognises that prisoners are still human beings with rights despite their incarceration.
While critics may look at President Lungu’s gesture as an endorsement of crime, the head of State has a point; one does not cease to be a human being upon incarceration.
Moreover, the harsh conditions that prisoners are subjected to only harden their hearts, further defeating the whole purpose of correctional centres.
It is envisaged that after serving a full term, inmates will come out converted into more responsible members of society.
During his visit, President Lungu also assured inmates that Government will work with the courts to ensure speedy trials because ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
In the past we have seen cases taking as long as 13 years and beyond. For someone to be incarcerated for such a long time and only to be acquitted is indeed a direct assault on human rights.
It is in such cases that the rejected Bill of Rights would have been very helpful. The proposed Bill, for instance, provides for trial within a specified period of time.
As the head of State pointed out, all those privileged by way of leadership, wealth or skills should work towards making this country a better place, especially for vulnerable groups like prisoners.