Government gives nod to prisoners and witness protection bills

By Theophilus Chuma

THE Government has approved the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill in a move set to improve the standards and conditions in the country’s prisons.

The adjustment to the Prisons and Correctional Services Act approved by cabinet will ensure that the prison system caters for the needs of vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, juveniles and children accompanying their mothers in prison.

In a post cabinet media briefing this Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services
Minister, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa noted that the Bill is set to modernise prison legislation.

“The nation is informed that the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill, 2022 seeks to modernise the prisons legislation with a view to ensuring that it meets the international norms and standards regarding prisons administration, including the way prisoners should be treated,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

“This includes focusing on restorative justice through rehabilitation rather than incarceration of offenders. The Prisons and Correctional Services Act will ensure that the prison system caters for the needs of the vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, juvenile offenders as well as persons with disabilities and other special categories in society that have special needs.

“Cabinet advises that the parole system will be broadened to provide for the eligibility of every prisoner to apply for parole regardless of the nature of the sentences they are serving. The legislation will provide for the establishment of correctional community centres throughout the country which will essentially be open prisons. These centres will also ensure the decongestion of prisons as certain prisoners will be released from standard prisons to reside in such community centres. They will also serve the purpose of easing the transition of inmates from incarceration life to community life.”

Government has also approved the Witness Protection Bill which now prioritises enhanced protection of witnesses.

“Cabinet considered and approved the Principles of the Witness Protection Bill, 2022 as presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi,” said Senator Mutsvangwa.

“The nation is informed that the Witness Protection Bill seeks to fill the gap in the law by establishing legislation to provide for Witness Protection in Zimbabwe. The absence of adequate witness protection mechanisms has resulted in the police taking the responsibility of protecting witnesses.

“Cabinet reports that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of an Office that caters for the protection and placement of witnesses under temporary, interim and permanent protection. The Bill seeks to regulate the powers, functions and duties of the Office. Furthermore, the Bill will establish the necessary procedures and measures on how witnesses are put into the witness protection programme.”

Cabinet also noted the impressive strides recorded by the tourism sector over the past year.

“Tourism investments increased from US$86 million in 2020 to US$142 million in 2021, some notable investments being Palm River Hotel, Zambezi Boutique Guesthouse, and Nkosi Guest Lodge (Victoria Falls); Makhado in Beitbridge; and the Beethoven Hotel in Harare. Hot Plate Grill restaurants were opened throughout the country.”

The tourism industry targets further recovery this year buoyed by intense interest from regional and international aviation players.

Meanwhile, this trajectory is also expected in the mining sector which anticipates to sell its diamond story when the country hosts a Kimberely Process team in May this year.