The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs is experimenting with replacing inefficient building contractors with cheap prison labour.
In a push to clear the backlog of prison projects, which have fallen behind due to contractors? poor performance, the ministry has, in at least one case, diverted to prison labour a construction project that had been contracted to the private sector.
In his statement on the 2007/2008 Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals, Labour and Home Affairs Minister, Charles Tibone, told Parliament that they had terminated the services of a building contractor that was engaged in the expansion of Ghanzi Prison and the remaining work is ? being done by prison labour.?
Under international law, work carried out through prison labour is classed as forced labour because inmates may not choose whether or not they work and they are usually not paid.
A number of international advocacy groups, such as the Prison Activist Resources Centre (PARC), have spoken out against the use of prison labour in which inmates are not extended the same benefits, wages and health and safety protections as normal workers.
Tibone last week told Parliament that ?implementation of some prison projects has been affected by poor performance of contractors who were appointed to undertake the projects resulting in termination of their contracts. Examples of such projects are Moshupa Male Prison and Expansion of Ghanzi Prison. Re-tendering for Moshupa Prison is in progress and the remaining works will be done in the next financial year. The remaining works for Expansion of Ghanzi Prison are being done by Prison labour.?
Tibone, however, did not explain whether the inmates used in government works were extended the same benefits as normal workers.
The poor performance by private building contractors is putting pressure on the Department of prisons which is saddled with overcrowded cells.
Tibone told parliament that ?as the justice system improves its performance by convicting more of those who violate the law, we experience a major challenge of prisons accommodation. With an authorized holding capacity of 3910, the 6082 prisoners held constitute a 56 percent overcrowding. The overcrowding is higher by 1 percent this year than 2005 when it was 55 percent. This has a negative impact on our efforts to rehabilitate inmates and to ensure their proper custody.?