HARARE (Reuters) – Five Zimbabwean inmates died after being shot by police in last week’s prison protest over food shortages, which turned violent as some prisoners attempted to break out of jail, vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa said.
Prison authorities last week denied that prisoners had been shot, saying one person died after being stampeded during the protest and investigations were being carried out on the cause of death of two more who were taken to hospital.
Some opposition members of parliament accused prison officials of trying to cover-up the cause of the prisoners’ deaths at Chikurubi Maximum Security prison, which houses some of Zimbabwe’s most dangerous prisoners convicted of crimes including rape and armed robbery.
In comments published on Thursday in the Hansard, the official report of parliament proceedings, Mnangagwa told legislators that a group of 100 prisoners had used the protest to plot an escape.
He said prison authorities called in anti-riot police for back-up but the inmates attacked jail guards and the police, who responded by shooting the prisoners.
“When the officers felt that they were in serious danger, that is when they fired and one inmate died in prison,” Mnangagwa said in parliament. “Altogether, five have passed on but order has now been restored.”
Last year, a senior official in the Ministry of Justice told parliament that prisoners in the southern African country faced food shortages because of lack of adequate funding from the government.