Nearly one year after the Constitutional Court ordered Parliament to make financial resources available to prison authorities to deal with congestion and food shortages, the prisons remain congested.
The prisoners also take one meal per day, remain half naked, among other human rights violations, against the courtâ€™s order that required the authorities to comply with the judgement and the minimum standards set in the Prisons Act and Prisons Regulations.
The Act and the Regulations mandate the Malawi Prison Service (MPS) to provide inmates two meals per day, among other entitlements.
A prisoner, Gable Masangano, serving a 12-year-jail term effective 2006, sued the Attorney General (AG), Home Affairs Minister and Commissioner of Prisons, and as it stands, the three are in contempt of court having failed to comply with it.
But the new AG, Ralph Kasambara, said in an interview on Monday the matter is yet to be brought to his attention. He, however, described the development as â€œinteresting.â€
He said he would look for the case file to find a way forward.
However, lawyer Ambokile Salimu, who represented the prisoners, said he was surprised that the new AG was not aware of the matter. He said on an important matter such as this one, which has a Constitutional Court order to it, he expected Kasambara to have been briefed by his predecessor.
The order was made by a three-member panel of justices Rezine Mzikamanda, Richard Chinangwa and Esmie Chombo.
In the judicial review case, Masangano, on behalf of all prisoners in Malawi, complained that inmates were experiencing insufficient or total lack of ordinary diet. He said their diet only comprises maize meal (nsima) and peas or beans contrary to the 3rd Schedule of the Prisons Regulations in the Prisons Act of the Laws of Malawi.
He complained that they get no breakfast and that they are given insufficient or total lack of clothing and accessories such as two pairs of shorts, singlets, soap, a pair of sandals, blankets, sleeping mats, held in cells double the number they were designed to hold, denied a right to chat with relatives, among others.
In their judgement, the Constitutional Court justices reaffirmed that prisonersâ€™ rights include right to food, clothing, accessories and cell equipment to the minimum standards as set out in the Prisons Act and Prisons Regulations.