By Violet Tembo
THE Presidential Empowerment Initiative Fund (PEIF) has donated four cows to convicted inmates at Kamfinsa correctional facility.
And Kitwe district commissioner Chanda Kabwe has implored Zambians to supplement Government’s efforts in caring for inmates countrywide, charging that everyone was a potential law break and bound to be convicted.
Presidential Affairs Minister Freedom Sikazwe has asked convicted inmates pardoned by President Lungu to appreciate the gesture by being law abiding citizens.
Speaking when he presented the cows to convicted inmates with various household assortments contributed by the stakeholders, Mr. Sikazwe described President Lungu’s gesture as testimony that convicted inmates were not outcasts.
Mr. Sikazwe stated that congestion in correctional facilities in the country was one of the greatest concerns that was seriously worrying President Lungu.
He indicated that one way of trying to decongest correctional facilities was through release of convicted inmates on special Presidential amnesty.
“President Lungu is trying to look at different ways of decongesting the correctional facilities because it has become worrisome in the sense that the number of persons convicted keep on increasing but the capacity of the facilities to house them have remained unchanged. The infrastructure currently under the correctional facility is not adequate and that is why Government has embarked on construction of new facilities.
“It is not that we want to see more people convicted but prepare incidences and clear the mischief tagged to such facilities and one enjoys while in custody,” Mr Sikazwe said.
He said the release of 194 prisoners from Copperbelt Province correctional facilities was one of the many ways President Lungu was decongesting the facilities.
Mr. Sikazwe has urged pardoned prisoners who have since been released on amnesty to put to use the skills attained from correctional facilities and contribute to the welfare of the country’s economic growth.
And Kitwe DC Chanda Kabwe, who is PEIF national patron, said President Lungu had exhibited compassion for Zambians who were incarcerated and that was why he had decided to share gifts with inmates.
He said the gesture by the President was to show that he loved Zambians regardless of the fact that they had fallen short of expectations of society by breaking the law.
He said the gesture was testimony that President Lungu was a father of all regardless of one’s background.
“Under the PEIF, I asked for authority from President Lungu that we celebrate Christmas with you (convicted inmates) at Kamfinsa. This is to show that we love you. We are not special but everyone is a potential prisoner. What the President has done is just showing fatherly love. One cannot disowned his child because they committed a crime,” Mr Chanda said.
He stated that this was the first time a sitting President was sharing gifts with convicted inmates.
And Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kang’ombe said that the residents of the city of Kitwe were appreciating President Lungu’s gesture for the many developmental projects Government was undertaking.
Meanwhile, Copperbelt correctional facilities regional commanding officer senior assistant commissioner Wilson Mbewe said that Copperbelt was housing 4,552 inmates.
Mr. Mbewe disclosed that the correctional facilities had continued to face challenges such as access to clean water, poor sanitation, transport and inadequate funding.
He appealed to President Lungu to separate Kamfinsa from the list of principal grant received annually as it housed a large number of inmates which was currently standing at 2,383.
He said officers and inmates had challenges in having uniforms, erratic water supply, transport and mattresses.
Mr Mbewe explained that the Statutory Instrument signed by President Lungu in January this year to transform prisons into correctional service was a paradigm shift which he said promoted the upholding of human rights.
And in a vote of thanks to President Lungu, convicted inmate Micheal Mweshi thanked Government for improving conditions in correctional facilities.
Mweshi said inmates have witnessed an increase in the number of health personnel attached to the facilities to attend to various health matters.