MYSTERY still surrounds the whereabouts of three prisoners who recently staged a movie-style escape from Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, forcing the Zambia Prison Service (ZPS) to place a KR10,000 reward on the head of each fugitive.
Meanwhile, Government has put an indefinite ban on family visits to Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison following the escape.
Eleven days have passed since the death row inmates, who occupied cell number 19 with three other inmates, escaped from the heavily fortified and guarded prison.
Commissioner of Prisons Percy Chato said in Kabwe yesterday that the prison service is offering a KR30,000 cash reward for the recapture of Derrick Mwape, Bernard Kapaso and Shadrick Phiri.
Phiri and Kapaso have been on death row for murder and aggravated robbery while Mwape has been on the same sentence for murder. They escaped from lawful custody on February 12 after tampering with the door of their cell.
Mr Chato is hoping that with the bounty on the heads of the fugitives, some members of the public will come forward with information leading to the arrest of the convicts.
“We are offering K10 million [KR10,000] for each of the three escapees,” Mr Chato said.
He also said the prison service has continued working with the police in hunting down the three escapees.
And Central Province police commissioner Standwell Lungu said the three escapees are still at large. They broke a thick wooden door after issuing a stern warning to their three cell-mates that they would be killed if they raised alarm.
A source said prior to their escape, Mwape, Phiri and Kapaso coerced their cell-mates to escape with them but two of them declined and could not co-opt the other inmate as they feared he could be an obstacle to the execution of their escape because of his disability.
On the ban on visits, Minister of Home Affairs Edgar Lungu said it will only be lifted depending on the outcome of an inquiry into what led to the escape of the three prisoners.
He said this in a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday on the alleged killing of 16 prisoners at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison.
Mr Lungu was ordered to issue a ministerial statement by Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini following a point of order raised by Kasempa member of Parliament (MP) Kabinga Pande (MMD) on Tuesday.
Mr Pande alleged that 16 prisoners were beaten to death by prison recruits after the escape of the three.
But Mr Lungu said the allegations were not only false but also malicious because no prisoner was beaten to death at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison.
He said a board of inquiries has been constituted to determine what led to the escape of the condemned prisoners.
“As a result of the escape, a special search was conducted at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in all sections, to remove all prohibited articles as well as establish if there were any further threats to security.
The officers discovered that the three escapees used a sharp instrument to cut the metal which fastens the door of the cells and escaped,” Mr Lungu said.
He said the search was met with resistance from inmates and who became unruly and in the process, abducted one prison warder whom they held hostage and demanded that officers discontinue the search as a condition for releasing him.
Mr Lungu said 300 recruits were brought in to reinforce the officers to rescue the warder and also to continue with the search and secure the prison.
He said only 300 recruits were deployed inside the prison, contrary to allegations made by Mr Pande that 600 recruits were deployed at Mukobeko.
“The search yielded positive results. Various offensive weapons such as screw drivers, knives, dagga and many other prohibited articles were recovered,” Mr Lungu said.
He said the situation at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison is calm.
Mr Lungu said the opening of Mwembeshi prison next month will help to address the challenge of congestion and poor sanitation at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison.