13 September 2013
The Post Online
A NUTRITION expert on Wednesday told the Lusaka High Court that prison authorities should be sensitive to the dietary needs of inmates who are on HIV/AIDS and diabetes treatment.
Standing as an expert witness before Lusaka High Court judge in-charge Jane Kabuka, Dr Canisius Banda said prison authorities should pay attention to diet requirements of HIV/AIDS patients serving jail sentences.
Banda was testifying in a matter where two inmates living with HIV, George Peter Mwanza, 39, and Melvin Beene, in his twenties, sued the state for the poor diet they were subjected to, which was not in line with their medication.
Mwanza is currently serving a 15-year sentence in Kabwe’s Mukobeko medium prison, while Beene has since been pardoned.
Dr Banda submitted that inmates on medication were supposed to be given a different diet corresponding to their treatment.
“The diet given to all of us, whether HIV positive or not, should be commensurate with our needs. But if the food given to anybody in prison is also given to patients with HIV or diabetes, then the diet is not sensitive to the patients,” Dr Banda submitted.
Dr Banda further told the court that though inmates were serving sentences, they had a right to a balanced diet, especially those undergoing different medical treatments.
“If it is part of the punishment to withhold food from prisoners, then let it be, but if it is their right to have access to a balanced diet, then let them be given according to their needs. A responsible person should be sensitive to these needs of HIV prisoners,” submitted Dr Banda.
But Pessy Hlazo, from the Attorney General’s chambers, submitted that inmates were given meals sufficient to provide for their dietary requirements and that a special and balanced diet was not a must.
Hlazo also applied for an adjournment because there was no witness.
This displeased justice Kabuka, who stood down the matter for ten minutes and summoned Hlazo and the defence lawyer Isaac Siame from Legal Resource Chambers to her chambers over the failure of the witness, who was served a notice six months ago, to appear in court.
“The notice was served way back on March 11 this year, why only contact the witness yesterday (September 10)?” judge Kabuka wondered.
When the matter resumed, both the state and the defence agreed to have the matter adjourned and judge Kabuka set September 26 as date for defence.