Shocking Footage Reveals Zimbabwe Prison Horrors

New evidence has emerged of the scale of the crisis in Zimbabwe with shocking images from inside the country's prisons.

The footage shows emaciated inmates succumbing to starvation and disease in the overcrowded jails.

Human rights activists and former prisoners have spoken of horrifying conditions in the jails but there has been little first hand evidence available.

Producer Godknows Nare spent four months filming a behind-the-walls documentary, training insiders to capture the footage.

His film "Hell Hole" aired on Tuesday on SABC, the South African state broadcaster.

Nare said he hoped the footage would persuade Zimbabwe's new coalition government and the international community to step in.

"Just hearsay, without visual proof, is not enough to change people's minds," he said.

In one scene from "Hell Hole," a man stands shirtless in a prison yard, his ribs and pelvic bone shockingly prominent until he pulls on a ragged T-shirt.

In other scenes, emaciated prisoners, wasting away because of vitamin deficiencies, are shown lying on mats in cells furnished with just blankets and thin mattresses.

Nare said prison menus have been reduced to daily bowls of corn porridge, which the inmates are shown eating slowly, as if they barely have the energy to bring the food to their mouths.

Annah Y Moyo, a Zimbabwean lawyer working with the Southern African Center for Survivors of Torture, said conditions in Zimbabwean prisons were "a form of torture."

Moyo, who was not involved in making the documentary, said Zimbabwe's soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods have made it difficult to supply prisons.

But she said corruption also played a role, with prison officials taking food that should go to prisoners and selling it on the black market.

And she said there was a political aspect, with security officials making sure political activists are aware of the prison conditions.

"Everyone knows that if you're sent to prison, your chances of coming out alive are slim," Moyo said.

"It's quite a complex situation. You cannot classify it as only economic or political."

Lack of medical care in jails and prisons also has been an issue, with concern that cholera, at epidemic levels in Zimbabwe, would take an even higher toll in crowded prison cells.

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