HOME Affairs deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni recently admitted that most holding cells at police stations were in a sorry state and told Parliament that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) had started upgrading the cells to modernise them.
by VENERANDA LANGA
“It is unfortunate that most police cells were built before independence with external flush systems, but government is doing all it can to keep the flushing systems in good working order and making the necessary renovations so that they meet modernity,” Mguni said.
“The only major constraints are limited resources, but the ZRP is a creation of the Constitution and, as such, it is obliged to uphold all fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and among these rights are rights of arrested and detained persons.”
He said section 21 of the schedule to the Police Act makes it an offence to neglect or ill-treat in any way any person in custody.
“There is a register of cell visits where the officer or member in charge of the station or a shift leader is required to visit each cell after every 30 or 15 minutes in a rural or urban police station. Magistrates and judges carry out unannounced visits to police cells to check on the detention of arrested persons,” he said.
The deputy minister claimed there was a blankets laundry schedule and registers where blankets were washed each week, while toilets were flushed regularly or upon request by inmates.
“Police cells are cleaned twice each day; once in the morning and once in the afternoon and upon request or as directed by the officer in charge. All detained persons are issued with toilet paper upon detention using scales that are stipulated in the Police Standing Orders,” he said.
With specific reference to Mutare Police Station, Mguni said there were seven holding cells at the station, with 10 accused persons detained at a time and 44 blankets in use, which may be increased to 50 blankets when the need arises.
Mguni said there might be a few occasions when the sewer system was faulty and water supplies were cut. However, he said in such situations police would provide alternative sources of water.