Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
HE was among the pioneers of reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners in the country as opposed to punishment that hardened them and made them dangerous to society.
Under his leadership, he showed that inmates can learn life skills in prison that could generate income for the country and themselves when they get released, through establishment of prison farms and other vocational activities.
He oversaw the country’s prison system shooting to be included among the best in terms of inmate welfare in the world.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Commissioner-General, Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi has concluded his 22-year service to the institution by conducting a tour to facilities around the country bidding farewell to his subordinates.
President Mnangagwa approved his retirement at the end of next month and his replacement, Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu, who has been acting in the position since Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi has been on leave pending his retirement, has big boots to fill.
Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi, who joined the then Zimbabwe Prison Services in 1998 after being retired from the Zimbabwe National Army, says he is happy he leaves the ZPCS with strong emphasis on the correctional aspect in the rehabilitation of inmates.
The self-effacing champion of inmate reform is on a nationwide tour to bid farewell to his juniors, attributing his long service in the prison system to their support.
On Thursday he visited Anju Prison in Umguza, Matabeleland North where the provincial ZPCS leadership hosted him and said goodbyes.
Prior to his visit to the Anju Prison, his brainchild, he paid a courtesy call to Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo.
Minister Moyo saluted Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi for changing the face of prisons, through engaging in commercial projects such as farming.
“You were instrumental in coming up with income generation projects for the Matabeleland North Province prison institutions especially the Binga Kapenta Fishing Project and the Lupane Aquaculture projects which were launched in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Apart from generating income within prison establishments, these projects offer alternative nutritional requirements to both the staff and inmate population within the province’s prisons,” said Minister Moyo.
Addressing the ZPCS officers, Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi said he was leaving the organisation a proud and satisfied man.
Reflecting on his tenure at the helm of Zimbabwe Prison Services as it was named prior to the 2013 Constitution, Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi says there is a lot of achievement that the organisation made under his leadership.
The soft-spoken ZPCS boss does not want to claim credit for what has been achieved, attributing success to team work.
“The most important of our achievements as an organisation, because we work collectively is the issue of changing punitive system to that of the rehabilitation on inmates. We no longer treat our offenders as prisoners who are supposed to be punished, for us now is to correct them. That is why our institution was changed from ZPS to ZPCS. The correctional aspect is the major achievement that has come during my tenure of officer as Comm Gen of ZPCS,” said Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi.
He said he oversaw the growth of ZPCS from 10 000 staff members to an expected 22 000, following a recent Government approval.
Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi said when he joined the system it had only four regions managing the prisons system but it has since been decentralised with each province managing its affairs.
The outgoing boss said under his leadership, ZPCS is ranked among top prisons in Africa by the International Community of the Red Cross for upholding human rights for inmates.
“A lot of projects in partnership with various stakeholders came into being during my time in office. And I think those projects are for the sake of complementing Government’s efforts and making sure that the conditions of service for our officers also improves. We have been collaborating with other prisons in the region and beyond the region,” said Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi.
“The organisation is recognised in Sadc and beyond, we have been going to other countries to share with them our experience in the management of the prisons. We have been to Botswana, Zambia, Eswatini, sharing with them our experience in managing the prisons including the rehabilitation aspect. Those are some of the achievements that I would like to think about.”
He said the public and the media is free to visit the prison system as opposed to listening to narratives by naysayers.
Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi encouraged income generation projects and Anju has become a farming champion in Matabeleland North, while in Hwange ZPCS is involved brick moulding.
Khami Prisons, on the outskirts of Bulawayo, is doing wonders with agricultural produce that is feeding inmates and even selling surplus and donating food to health institutions.
The income generating projects have reduced the prisons’ reliance on Treasury for their day-to-day running.
The Rtd Maj-Gen set up a staff benefit fund, to enable members to build houses, saying relying on Government housing scheme was unsustainable and could leave officers destitute upon retirement.
He is introducing the Comm Gen Goodwill Fund to assist widows and orphans left by prison officers through providing them with food hampers as well as school fee payments for the children.
He said some of the challenges that ZPCS has experienced is providing food and medication to prisoners, itself a reflection of the country’s underperforming economy.
“What happens in prisons is a reflection of what happens in the society. There is shortage of food in prison and there is shortage of food outside. It’s an issue that the nation has got to tackle, not the prisons. The prison administration does not work in isolation of the community in which they serve. They have to tackle all the problems with the rest of stakeholders who are the community. So, this is why we work with communities as nothing cant be done without the involvement of our communities and I think we have achieved that,” he said.
The outgoing ZPCS boss said the organisation has adopted an open policy which has contributed in some of the partnerships they are enjoying in the management of inmates.
He said one of his regrets is that he did not promote a lot of women to senior positions and hoped that the incoming ZPCS boss would address that.
Rtd Maj-Gen Zimondi challenged ZPCS officers to be disciplined, hardworking and aim to prevent corruption while encouraging them to work hard.
As a parting shot, he said to develop the country communities should shun the donor dependency syndrome which has led to unproductivity.
“A lot of people say commercial farmers were the ones who ensured that there was food security in the country. But this is not true. Our communal farmers were significantly contributing to the food security in the country. But now the dependency on donors has affected productivity. Let’s shun the donor syndrome and work to develop the country. You have to ask yourself why someone would ride a plane to come and donate to you,” he said. — @nqotshili.