CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka
MINISTER of Justice Given Lubinda says it is unacceptable to keep over 4,000 remand prisoners for lengthy periods in correctional facilities and has pledged to have their cases heard expeditiously by the courts.
Mr Lubinda said it is unfair for remand prisoners to stay behind bars for a long time without their cases being heard.
He said this in Lusaka on Thursday during a tour of Lusaka Central Correctional Facility.
“I want a list of all remandees here by next week Friday. Those inmates with cases must stay here and the innocent ones must be released,” Mr Lubinda said amid applause from the inmates.
Mr Lubinda, his Home Affairs counterpart Stephen Kampyongo and co-operating partners that include the European Union (EU) have been inspecting correctional facilities in Central, Southern and Copperbelt provinces to appreciate challenges faced by inmates.
“We have 4,400 remandees in Zambia. This is too much and it must change,” he said.
Mr Lubinda partly attributed the high number of remandees in correctional facilities to delays in the hearing of their cases by the courts.
Mr Lubinda directed Lusaka Central Correctional Facility management to compile a list of remandees at the penitentiary so that he could facilitate their quick appearance before the court.
This was after the correctional facilicity’s deputy officer-in-charge, Misheck Sakala, informed him that the penitentiary has 450 remandees.
Mr Sakala said the facility houses 1,350 inmates against a 250 holding capacity.
He said congestion and poor ventilation are among the many challenges the facility faces.
In response to the challenges, Mr Kampyongo said inmates at the facility will all be moved to Mwembeshi, where a modern and spacious correctional facility is being built.
“We will relocate the inmates here to Mwembeshi once it is finished because this place is undesirable and unconducive,” he said.
Mr Kampyongo said Government expects officers in all correctional facilities to be highly disciplined and to treat inmates humanely.
EU head of co-operation Gianluca Azzoni said EU will support Zambia’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system.
Meanwhile, Government, in partnership with Germany Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ), will next month hold a national symposium to find lasting solutions for prison congestion in Zambia.
GIZ governance advisor Johnn Lieberich said the symposium, which will be held from September 12 to 17, will find best practices and solutions to improve the welfare of inmates in Zambia and southern Africa.