Judge Madise's Sermon on Prison Visitations
High court judge, Dingiswayo Madise, has appealed to his pears in the justice system and magistrates to visit the country’s prisons to assess the situation which is leading to overcrowding of inmates in the correctional facilities.
Madise said this Tuesday, during the commemoration of the 2019 international human rights day at Mzuzu prison organized by rights bodies, Youth-Watch Society and Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
“We’re mandated under law to visits the prisons and even the police cells. Every once in a while, we need to visit prisons to appreciate the conditions here. We owe it to the people of Malawi, we owe it to the law. As you can see, the prison is congested here and its really bad,” said Madise.
The judge also requested courts to use community service sentences where appropriate as one way of ensuring that prisons are not congested.
The organizations held a live public debate which drew together inmates, judges, magistrates and law enforcers hinging on the pre-trial Custody Time Limits.
Zimema Nyoni, a murder suspect, told the discussion that he has spent 10 years at Mzuzu prison without any chance for trial despite being committed to the high court.
“I, only appeared before the high court once in 2008. The judge asked me to pay K20,000 as my bail condition. I remained in custody. I could not raise that kind of amount,” Nyoni said.
Executive Director for Youth Watch Society, Muteyu Banda, finds Nyoni’s incident and others as retrogressive in awake of the amended 2010 law which prohibits longer detentions without trial.
“Nyoni’s case is just an isolated one of many, there are several inmates at this facility and others where suspect have exceeded their custodial time limits up to 10 years without trial. Said Banda.
Banda lamented that, "when we look back during the dictatorship regime, we hear of cases without trial, we thought when we’re going into democracy with all the reforms all those issues will be of the past, it’s unfortunate that we are still grappling with the same issues to date”.
Commissioner of prisons Clement Kainja disclosed that Malawi’s prisons who have the capacity to hold 7000 inmates currently have a population of over 14 000 inmates living in deplorable conditions.
Kainja disclosed “20 percent of this population are on remand and these are murder suspects and others, we need an effective criminal justice system to change the status quo”