Prisons to grow own food as hunger bites

Prisons to grow own food as hunger bites

MASERU-THE Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) has ventured into farming to tackle serious malnutrition among prisoners.
Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao told a press conference last week that some inmates were malnourished because of poor diet.
“The ministry has decided to grow its own food to enhance nutrition in the correctional centres,” Professor Mahao said.

“Most sick inmates are suffering from malnutrition and they lack iron so the nurses said that is caused by poor nutrition”.
He said the LCS’ budget for the inmates’ upkeep has been declining in recent years. This year, the minister said, some of the money earmarked for the LCS was diverted to the fight against Covid-19.

“That has caused lack of nutrition in the prisons.”
He said they have two tractors for the inmates to produce their own food.
The prison authorities have crop-sharing agreements with the field owners, especially widows and the elderly.

Professor Mahao’s revelation comes barely a few months after the LCS denied reports of rampant food shortages in prisons.
The LCS was responding to complaints by some detained soldiers that they were starving.

Speaking on behalf of his detained colleagues, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane told the court that they were “hungry and not fit at all” to stand trial.
He said sometimes they are fed only porridge for days.
“Our family members were denied access to bring us food because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Major Ramoepane, another inmate, told the High Court that the prison was not giving him food that his doctor had prescribed for him.
Major Pitso Ramoepane said the prison authorities were blocking his family from bringing him the food.

However, the then LCS spokesman, Superintendent Neo Mopeli, denied that there was a shortage of food in prison.
Superintendent Mopeli said he would rather say “the menu does not suit some individuals, not that there is a shortage of food”.
“Some inmates may want to eat meat but it happens that they get milk, so just because the menu does not suit them, they say they are not eating?” he said.

Lesotho’s prisons are notorious for their squalid conditions.
A few years ago, a report by the Ombudsman said the prisons were overcrowded and the quality of food was poor. The prisoners were also not getting uniforms and blankets, the report said.
It warned that inmates were at risk of contracting HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases.

Those findings have been repeatedly supported by testimonies from former prisoners as well as MPs who are members of the cluster that deals with prisons.

Nkheli Liphoto

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