300 Mentally Ill Inmates Trapped In Zim Prisons

A total of 300 prisoners diagnosed with mental disorders  have spent more than 10 years detained inside Chikurubi Maximum prison and other correctional facilities around the country due to the absence of a mental health tribunal review board.

By Michael Gwarisa

This was revealed by Bulawayo Metropolitan legislator, Honourable Jasmine Toffa during an oral evidence session where Ministry of Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary, Dr Agnes Mahomva was briefing Parliament on the steps government has taken to resolve the Mental Health Tribunal Board issue.

It’s not just a few outstanding cases, we are talking about a couple of hundreds inmates suffering from mental illness. 

“Of concern is the fact that most of those mental patients have been tried at Chikurubi because there is no mental institutions because there is no mental health institutions where they can be tried. Most of those patients have been found not guilty but because they are waiting for the board to sit, they have not been released,” said Hon Toffa.

She added that the more the inmates are detained the more they face an even worse mental health crisis.

Acting chair for the Portfolio Committee on Health, Hon Mathew Tongofa said the Mental Health Tribunal has not been sitting for a while now and this has exposed mental health patients to the harsh economic and health environments prevalent in Zimbabwe’s correctional facilities.

Binga North legislator, Hon Prince Dubeko Sibanda said the issue of the tribunal needed to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

“This committee in the last parliament, I am sure it was some time last year, visited Chikurubi maximum prison and they were outstanding cases of mental health. The information then which we obtained from the then permanent secretary was that the board was not fully constituted,” he said.

However, Dr Mahomva indicated that there board had already been constituted, a development which incensed parliamentarians who later ordered her to go back and put her house in order before she is summoned to give oral evidence on the same topic.

“The tribunal has actually been sitting since it came into office and currently does not have any pending cases before it both for the special institutions namely Chikurubi and Mlondolozi.

“We are aware that the mental health review tribunal was established in terms of section 75 of the mental act of 1996 and is being currently chaired by Justice Chatukuta and it consists of nine members including the chair person,” she said.

She added that in 2018, the tribunal had four sittings for cases coming both from Chikurubi and Mlondolozi and in 2019, the tribunal sat on April 12, and reviewed cases from Mlondolozi. The Mlondolozi special body had a sitting on March 14 2019.

The Chikurubi special board has not sat as of 2019. The Mlondolozi and Chikurubi chairperson for the special boards have since resigned after citing incapacitation issues.

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