Zimbabwe prison officers arrested over prison scandal documentary
Three prisons officers in Zimbabwe have been arrest on allegations that they helped film the shocking conditions in two of the country's prisons for a documentary that was screened to international outrage last week, reports said Sunday, according to dpa.
The television documentary, Hell Hole, produced by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, on Wednesday showed scores of skeletal prisoners dressed in rags and reportedly dying of malnutrition and HIV-AIDS in filthy institutions without food, medication or basic cleaning materials.
The SABC team said sympathetic warders had been supplied with secret cameras to film conditions in two institutions, Khami prison in the western city of Bulawayo, and one in the southern border town of Beitbridge. The documentary took three months to produce.
A senior police officer in Beitbridge was quoted Sunday in the independent weekly Standard newspaper as saying that warders Thabiso Nyathi, Siyai Muchechedzi and Thembinkosi Nkomo were arrested on Friday on charges under the Official Secrets Act, which prescribes lengthy jail terms for government employees who leak "state secrets."
The film's screening was greeted with uproar from human rights groups around the world and highlighted the situation of severe neglect of prisoners, many of them political detainees, that the new coalition government has inherited from the former regime of President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe and pro-democracy leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change formed a coalition government recently, with Mugabe staying on as president and Tsvangirai appointed prime minister.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who is in charge of the country's prisons, last week denied the documentary had anything to do with Zimbabwean prisons. "The SABC is lying," he said. "We don't allow cameras in our prisons. We have made our investigations and found that the footage is not of Zimbabwe but other countries."
Prison support groups report that 20 of the country's 14,000 inmates die each day.