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Non-documented inmates wallow in misery

23 Dec 2019 at 15:51hrs | Views
INMATES without proper national identity documents at Khami and Mlondolozi prisons in Bulawayo are complaining that they do not access equal opportunities as their documented counterparts.

This came to light when the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) visited the two institutions on Tuesday.

ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi told Southern Eye that the inmates were missing out on opportunities to advance themselves in education due to lack of documentation.

"The purpose of our visit was the challenges faced by inmates and their families in accessing documentation. We discovered that incarcerated inmates missed an opportunity of being released on the presidential amnesty because they did not possess national identity cards to prove their age so that they can be pardoned," Mugwadi said.

In March last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pardoned all juveniles under the age of 18 serving in prison terms irrespective of the crimes they committed.

During the same period Mnangagwa granted full remission to prisoners over the age of 60 years who had served a third of their sentences. But this was not inclusive of those on the death row and inmates serving life sentences.

However, Mugwadi said prisoners who lost their documents also struggle to replace them.

"The issue of accessing documentation is attached to their previous and current offences. Some highlighted that they were struggling to acquire or replace birth certificates and identity documents because officials suspect they threw those away in a bid to acquire new ones with different identities to cover their old crimes or commit fresh offences," Mugwadi said.

Mugwadi said those serving long sentences brought to the fore their aspirations to acquire educational qualifications while in prison, but cannot sit for ordinary level if they do not have proper documentation.

"Those serving long sentences highlighted their desire to get educated while incarcerated, if they do not have proper documentation they cannot sit for ordinary level examinations as they cannot prove their identity and this violates their basic human right to education," Mugwadi added.

The Zimbabwe School Examination Council requires students sitting for Ordinary Level examinations to produce identity cards to mitigate against cheating in exams.

The commission launched a national inquiry into access to documentation in July this year, targeting to have every Zimbabwean documented by the end of 2020.

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Source - newsday
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