Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
THE Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs wants more than 2 000 prisoners to be pardoned to ease congestion in the country’s prisons in its 100-day plan and is engaging President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It has become an annual tradition that the President pardons prisoners usually at the beginning of the year.
Prisoners are released on amnesty in terms of Section 112 (1) (a) and (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi said the release of prisoners was a priority in his Ministry’s 100-day plan.
“We want the President as a goodwill gesture to pardon some of the prisoners so that we reduce the prison overload and we hope that within the next 100 days, we will have the President’s consent to pardon some of the prisoners,” said Cde Ziyambi.
He said his Ministry was also working on clearing mental patients from the prisons to reduce congestion.
“The prison population is around 19 000 yet our prisons’ holding capacity is 17 000.
“We also have 374 mental patients in custody as well as some immigration cases.
“What we intend to do is expedite the setting up of the Mental board so that the mental patients are cleared,” said Minister Ziyambi.
Former President Cde Robert Mugabe last May pardoned more than 2 000 inmates across the country.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Banda said they would welcome the move as prisons are overpopulated.
“We have more than 19 000 inmates yet our holding capacity is 17 000. We definitely welcome that move but the important thing is that the success of an amnesty is largely dependent on how people accept offenders back in society. We really need to do a lot in conscientising people to appreciate that prisoners remain our relatives and we need to accept them into society when released,” said Asst Comm Banda.
She said there were 99 inmates on death row and 94, one of them a woman, serving life imprisonment.
“We hope as someone who has served more than 20 years, they will consider her in the event amnesty is granted,” she said.
Zimbabwe has a death penalty after people voted for its retention during consultations that led to the drafting of the new home grown Constitution.
President Mnangagwa has maintained that he is against capital punishment which he says is a remnant of colonial laws that ought to be scrapped.
The number of crimes attracting the death penalty has however been whittled down to only treason and murder under aggravated circumstances.
Women, persons aged below 21 and those aged above 71 cannot be sentenced to death.