Zimbabwe’s High Court orders police to feed detainees


HARARE — The High Court has ordered the police to feed arrested accused persons in their custody, declaring the practice of withholding food from individuals in police custody as unconstitutional.

Harare High Court judge Justice Katiyo issued the order on Thursday to the Commissioner General of Police and Minister of Home Affairs, instructing them to rectify this situation within one month.

The ruling was made in a case filed by CCC MP Amos Chibaya, who challenged the unjust practice of denying food to individuals detained by the police. 

Chibaya argued that it is the responsibility of the state, not the relatives of those arrested, to provide food to detainees.

He filed the case in January 2023 after 25 CCC members arrested in Budiriro for holding an unsanctioned gathering were denied food while in police custody.

He further contended that depriving arrested individuals of food amounts to inhumane detention, which is in violation of Section 50 (5) (d) of the Constitution.

Chibaya was represented by Darlington Marange from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

The court's order comes amid a worsening prison crisis in Zimbabwe, where colonial-era facilities are overcrowded and under-resourced.

According to the justice ministry, there are 46 prisons in Zimbabwe, with a capacity to hold 17,000 inmates. 

However, as of March 2021, they were accommodating 23,000 inmates. 

Harare's Remand Prison, built in 1910 for a capacity of 800 people, now holds about 2,220, according to the justice ministry.

In 2022, the World Prison Brief, published by the University of London's Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research, ranked Zimbabwe's prisons as the 75th most overcrowded globally on a list of 203 countries. The database lists its occupancy rate at 130 percent.

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