Maula Prison officials on Wednesday New Year’s Day blocked the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) maize and medical donation worth K1 million to Maula Prison in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.
According to DPP president Peter Mutharika’s aide Ben Phiri, who led the delegation to the prison, the official cited the use of party vehicles and availability of some top party officials as reason for refusal to accept the donation.
“Following the media reports which indicated that there is acute food shortage at the prison, our president [Peter Mutharika] saw it fit to share some food and medication to prisoners but we were saddened to hear that we
cannot donate the food,” Phiri told Nyasa Times.
“The Regional Officer mentioned me and others that we could not have been part of the team to donate the things. So if we have the maize and the medication to donate, do we need to hire vehicles to ferry the things? So we will go back and try our best to make sure the donations get to the inmates,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Clemence Chiwela told Nyasa Times the directive to bar the donation came from Prison headquarters in Zomba but later refused to take more questions.
One of the prison warders who spoke on condition of anonymity said the prison run out of food in November and officials have been saying there is no funding to buy maize.
“We are currently surviving on well wishers who came and donate some food otherwise most of the times the inmates spend days without eating,” he said.
He further said so far, about five inmates have died due to starvation.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) visited Maula Prison in last week to investigate claims of deaths from hunger and food shortages.
During the visit, the commission said it established that food storage facilities at the prison were empty.
The commission also confirmed reports that the facility’s 2 223 inmates, who include remandees, went without food during the festive season and were surviving on meals from visiting relations or well-wishers such as the Catholic Women’s Organisation of the Maula Deanery and the faithful from the Anglican community.
Malawi Prisons spokesperson Evance Phiri attributed the food shortage to delays in supplying to the prisons but would not comment on reports of erratic funding to prisons.–(Additional reporting by Chancy Namdzunda, Nyasa Times)
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