PRISONERS on death row at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe yesterday protested and demanded to know whether they will be hanged or not.
There was panic among prison warders when they heard noise from the ‘condemned section’ of the prison, which in most cases is supposed to be quiet.
The 361 inmates, who complained of congestion in the prison, also demanded to be addressed by Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu.
The ‘condemned section’ at Mukobeko Maximum Prison has rooms meant for two or three people but currently seven or eight prisoners are made to share a single room.
“We were caught off-guard because the condemned section is normally quiet but we just heard noise and when we went closer, we heard the prisoners shouting that they want to know if they will be killed or not because of overcrowding,” reliable sources within the prison said.
The sources said the inmates protested over delays by authorities to hang them since no-one has been hanged in many years, causing congestion in the holding cells.
The prisoners complained that the congestion at the ‘condemned section’ which stood at 361 by last week was inhuman because people had continued to be sentenced to death while the prison had not been expanded.
The sources said some prisoners even threatened to go on hunger strike if their plight was not addressed by the relevant authorities.
A Sunday Times check around 16:00 hours showed that the situation had returned to normal.
When contacted for a comment, Mr Lungu confirmed having received a report over the ‘confusion’ but could not give more details.
He, however, called for calm among the prisoners, saying that the Government was working at de-congesting the ‘condemned section’ of Mukobeko Maximum Prison.
He said some prisoners would even be relocated to Mumbwa Prison which is under construction.
“My ministry is also engaging President Michael Sata to see if some of the prisoners can be released on parole, but the Government will ensure that their complaint is addressed,” he said.
The minister promised to visit the prison so that inmates on death row could explain their grievances.
In April last year, Vice-President Guy Scott toured the prison and described the deplorable conditions at the facility as ‘Hell on Earth’.
Dr Scott further said there was need to consult with Zambians whether they wanted those on death row to be executed or not and that he would table the issue before Cabinet.
The Vice-President said he was saddened by the poor conditions at the prison and promised that the government would improve the situation.