Prisons investments bear fruit

The investment and commercialisation drive by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) has started benefiting former prisoners and community members, with about 100 jobs created through public-private partnerships in Mazowe.

Mazowe Prison Farm has entered into a joint venture in mining and brick moulding, raking in thousands of dollars in profit. 

At least 97 people, including five former inmates, have been employed within Mazowe Prison.

Mazowe Prison became a strategic unit for Pamberi/Qhubekani Investment owned by the Government to stimulate entrepreneurship and commercial production within prisons.

A visiting delegation from the Botswana Correctional Service toured Mazowe Prison Farm recently, to exchange notes on how to improve operations.

Officer-in-Charge for Mazowe Prison Farm, chief correctional officer Tafirenyika Malvern Chikazinga, who is also the operations manager for Pamberi/Qhubekani Investments, said prison operations were previously affected by funding.

However, Pamberi/Qhubekani Investments is expected to ensure the service can carry out its mandate effectively and supplement the funding they obtain from Treasury through budgetary allocations.

“The commercialisation drive has seen this prison expanding its agriculture activities from five hectares in 2020 to 40 hectares,” said Mr Chikazinga. “To offset the effects of climate change and guarantee the future of our investment, we have embarked on massive development of our infrastructure.”

Mr Chikazinga said they have 90 cattle and have started piggery and goat production. These commercial activities were also equipping inmates with skills to survive after jail time.

“We are preparing inmates for life after prison,” he said. 

“Entrepreneurship in prison is a sure way to moulding them to be productive citizens. Prison officers have also benefited from entrepreneurship skills during these large-scale operations.” 

Superintendent Courage Masamba, who is the chief operations officer for Pamberi/Qhubekani Investments, said the company was owned by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

He said prison services were no longer only for correctional, rehabilitation and re-integration services, but now have an entrepreneurial operation to equip inmates during their rehabilitation process.

“We have commercialised to supplement and complement the Government’s efforts, instead of waiting on the Government,” he said.

“We bought a 16-hectare centre pivot to mechanise the agriculture production. Mazowe has become a centre of excellence with all our visitors interested in touring this prison. Mazowe Prison has land and we are not producing for inmates’ consumption alone, but contributing to the growth of the economy.”

Botswana Prisons Service Deputy Commissioner Keneilwe Sibongile Mokwenaotsile said they were on a transformative journey to strengthen their operations.

She said they travelled with their public service management directorate to appreciate the restructuring of ZPCS.

“We appreciate how ZPCS is structured and we had an opportunity to visit your Harare workshop and we are here in Mazowe,” she said.

“We have noticed that this farm is highly mechanised to improve efficiency and production. We have seen the rainmaker irrigation system and we want to implement it back home.

“They have multiple sources of water for irrigation. Some of the challenges they are facing include power outages and in Botswana we are harnessing solar. I am glad that they are also looking into solar energy.” 

Dep Comm Mokwenaotsile said she was impressed by inmates constructing staff quarters within a target of one a month.

She said Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi has launched a mindset change initiative, which is being embraced across all sectors. 

Turning to the commercialisation of prison services, Dep Comm Mokwenaotsile said the process will create employment, give skills to inmates and complement government efforts to improve the lives of inmates especially upon release.

“We will figure out how we can implement this back home,” she said. 

ZPCS Deputy Commissioner-General Shepherd Mpofu said they have a lot to learn from the Botswana Prison Service’s reintegration systems.

“We are still lagging in the integration part after equipping inmates with life skills,” he said.

“Botswana is doing well in this area and we exchanged notes. We have invested in monitoring and evaluation techniques, which is critical in evaluating our projects. We are happy to see other countries visiting our organisation and appreciating what we are doing.”

Officer Commanding ZPCS Mashonaland Central, Commissioner Charity Gezi said the four prisons in Mashonaland Central, Bindura, Mt Darwin, Guruve and Mazowe Prisons, have 1 030 inmates and 711 officers.

She said Mashonaland Central prison farms were some of the top producers since they fall under agro-ecological region 2 and have water bodies.

Comm Gezi said Mazowe Prison was at yet the only station designated as a business unit.

Herald

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