Double celebration as pardoned prisoners taste freedom Pardoned inmates walk out of Gwanda Prison yesterday

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, [email protected]

IT was double celebration for close to 4 000 pardoned prisoners across the country yesterday as their release coincided with the 44th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence from the oppressive Rhodesian settler regime.

President Mnangagwa granted amnesty to various categories of prisoners on Monday, and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment to all inmates who had been on death row for 10 years and above. 

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs Vimbai Nyemba, announced in General Notice 467 of 2024 Clemency Order No.1 of 2024 published in an Extraordinary Gazette on Monday. 

Beneficiaries of the amnesty include all female inmates who had served one-third of their sentence by yesterday, excluding those serving time for specified offences and those who have previously been released on amnesty.

Specified offences are murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, car-jacking, robbery, public violence, human trafficking, unlawful possession of firearms, contravention of the Electricity Act, contravention of the Postal and Telecommunications Act, contravention of the Public Order and Security Act/ Maintenance of Peace and Order Act and any conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit any of the offences listed above.

Inmates under 18 years of age also benefited if they had served one-third of their sentence by yesterday. Those charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act are excluded from the Presidential amnesty.

Prisoners serving an effective period of 48 months and below who had served one-third of their sentence by yesterday, provided they were not convicted for specified offences, also benefited.

It was all smiles and jubilation at Gwanda Prison as pardoned inmates walked out of the prison gates with some breaking into song and dance while others shouted President Mnangagwa’s name in excitement and paid tribute to him for the amnesty, vowing never to return.

They expressed gratitude for being given the chance to taste freedom again and celebrate independence with their families. A total of 100 inmates were released from Gwanda Prison and its satellites that include Filabusi, Esigodini and Kezi.

Munyaradzi Sibanda from Nkwidzi area in Gwanda who was pardoned after serving one year five months for assault and was left with three months could not hide his joy.

“My stay at Gwanda prison was very productive to me because I gained skills in welding. I’m now able to work on different products such as gates, window panes, chairs, door frames among others,” he said. 

“I’m going to use these skills to sustain my family and earn a living. With this knowledge there is no way that I can come back here. 

“The greatest lesson I learnt during my stay in prison is that if you behave well and allow the rehabilitation process to take place you will come out a changed person. I got time to reflect on the offence I committed and I deeply regret my actions. I thank Government for giving me a second chance in life.”

Sibanda said the amnesty was a clear indication that President Mnangagwa loves his country and is concerned about everyone’s welfare.

Bilivous Ndou from Beitbridge who was convicted for stock theft said he was delighted to be given an opportunity to reunite with his family, especially on Independence Day. 

He said jail time equipped him with building and carpentry skills and now looks forward to utilising these to fend for his family.

Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services

“I can safely say I’m now a builder and carpenter thanks to the rehabilitative process I went through here in prison. I have been given a second chance in life and I intend to use it wisely,” said Ndou. 

“There is nothing great like being released from prison on Independence Day. Now I will celebrate the liberation of my country and my liberation, thanks to President Mnangagwa.”

Zenzo Mathobela said one of the first things he will do after his release is to make peace with his family and community, as well as gain trust of his loved ones once again. He was convicted for assault and had served 17 months and left with two.

Master Msipha said he has gained vast knowledge in mechanics and welding in jail after being convicted for unlawful entry and theft. He had served one year and four months and was left with four months. 

Acting officer in charge of Gwanda Prison, Chief Correctional Officer, Simon Ndodo, said he was confident that the prisoners were being released after being significantly empowered.

“We thank President Mnangagwa for granting the amnesty, which has seen us releasing inmates from Gwanda Prison and its satellites. We also thank our Commissioner General who ensured that this process is implemented timeously,” he said. “This will help to decongest the prisons and ease accommodation challenges that we were facing. 

“We have equipped the inmates with various skills such as brick laying, motor mechanics, farming and welding. I would also like to urge the inmates that have been released here today to make use of skills that they have attained to earn a living so that they don’t return here.”

Chief Correctional Officer Ndodo urged members of the public to accept the released inmates and integrate them within the community. He said the ex-convicts have been trained and equipped on how to live with the rest of the community.

President Mnangagwa also pardoned inmates certified terminally ill by a correctional medical officer or a Government medical officer with the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) required to liaise with the Department of Social Welfare so that there is continuity of treatment after release.

Inmates who are certified by a correctional medical officer or a Government medical officer to be visually impaired and those who are physically challenged to the extent that they cannot be catered for in a prison or correctional environment and had served one-third of their sentences by yesterday were also pardoned.

Those serving their sentences at open prisons provided they were not charged under the Criminal Code will also be released while those above 60 years will also benefit if they have served one-tenth of their sentence by April 18, and were not charged under the same law.

The Presidential pardon excludes any inmate who was previously released on amnesty, those serving a sentence imposed by Court Martial and those who escaped from lawful custody. —@DubeMatutu



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