Our Chairman, Hitesh Anadkat, together with his wife, Meeta Anadkat have sponsored the construction of a new 384 prison block at Chichiri Prison, Blantyre. The facility was officially opened yesterday by The Minister of Homeland Security Honorable Mr. Nicholas Dausi MP. Chronic overcrowding is a serious challenge facing Malawi’s prisons and this donation will go a long way to alleviating the problem at Chichiri. At the handover ceremony Mr. Anadkat related how he had initially seen a picture of prisoners sleeping on the floor some 12 years ago noting how ‘This photo shocked me. There was so much congestion. People were sleeping like sardines. So close to each other that none of them could even turn. I learnt that in rooms that were supposed to accommodate four prisoners they packed 20 or 40.’
Galvanised by what he had seen he started to engage prison authorities to address the situation but it was to take some 9 years before any meaningful action was taken – largely as a result of apathy and inaction on the part of the authorities. Eventually, however, things began to move in the right direction about 3 years ago through the efforts of then Acting Commissioner of Prisons, Dr. Little Mtengano.
Says Mr. Anadkat – ‘We hired architects and other professionals, got drawings done in accordance with the requirements of the prison officials and in accordance to my wishes. My wish was that for the first time, prisoners should have beds, adequate toilets and showers. We came up with a design that allowed for all these requirements. Then we got going. Dr. Mtengano got the support of the ministry of Home Affairs and President Peter Mutharika also gave his support.’ The result is the new prison cell block opened yesterday.
While the building project was underway Mr. Anadkat started helping prisoners in three other ways. Firstly he worked with Dr. Mtengano to
come up with a list of non-violent prisoners who were eligible for bail, but unable to afford it. Secondly once the list was done he put up the bail for 150 prisoners who were released within a couple of weeks and thirdly he funded legal aid to accelerate court procedures for prisoners on remand. Mr. Anadkat notes ‘The courts in Blantyre had law students and junior lawyers trying to help, but they didn’t have computers. The chief justice who I had met in prison conditions forum informed me that these lawyers were not efficient because they didn’t have computers. So I convinced First Capital Bank to donate computers to the high court. The chief justice is personally really trying to decongest prisons and he gave me a lot of support and encouragement.’
We would like to salute our Chairman and Mrs. Anadkat for their compassion, vision and exemplary citizenship. It has been a long journey of some 12 years since they first undertook to do something but as we at First Capital Bank like to say ‘Belief comes First’.