PRISONERS may be temporarily released to attend funerals, weddings and other important family functions provided they apply and get permission from the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, prison authorities have said.
Only a few who are conversant with the Prisons Act have over the years, successfully applied for temporary release.
Upon release, the inmate is accompanied by officers who will tightly monitor him or her throughout the function.
Section 129 of the Prisons Act (Chapter 7:11) reads:
“The Minister may, subject to such conditions as he may specify, grant a prisoner permission in writing to be absent from prison for a specified period for personal, family or other reasons if, in the opinion of the minister, the circumstances of the case warrant the granting of such permission.”
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS), spelt out the law while responding to an outcry by some people that suspected land baron Felix Munyaradzi had been seen attending a funeral during his incarceration last year.
A relative, Mr Collen Mavhundutse had deposed an affidavit insinuating the temporary release of Munyaradzi was scandalous.
However, ZPCS spokesperson Principal Correctional Officer Peter Chaparanganda set the record straight.
“The organisation would like to categorically state and advise the public that Felix Munyaradzi, an inmate remanded in custody at Harare Remand Prison, was granted temporary release from prison to go and attend the funeral of his father-in-law by the Minister of Justice, legal and Parliamentary Affairs Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi on 14 August 2020,” said PCO Chaparanganda.
He added that a number of prisoners have previously benefitted from the cited provision of the Prison Act to an extent of attending weddings.
“The case of Felix Munyaradzi is not the only case where incarcerated inmates have been legally granted temporary release from prison.
Several have previously benefitted in line with the provisions of the Prisons Act whenever circumstances warranted the granting of such release.
“Previously requests were granted, for prisoners who know the law, to attend weddings and funerals. They can even be released to marry their loved ones, with the minister’s permission,” he said.
Harare lawyer Ms Jacqueline Sande of Sande & Partners said the law allows for that and it is up to a prisoner to make use of it whenever he or she needs to attend to something important out of jail.
“The minister is empowered to grant any prisoner, what so ever, the permission to be out of prison if the minister deems there are justifiable reasons, and it is purely at his discretion,” she said.
Another lawyer Mr Caleb Mucheche of Caleb Mucheche Law Chambers said the minister has a wide discretion to temporarily set prisoners free for a specific period.
“The applicable legal provision confers upon the Justice Minister a very wide discretion to avail or afford a prisoner a lawful break or permission to leave prison under conditions stipulated by the minister.”
South Africa-based Zimbabwean lawyer Mrs Tambudzai Gonese-Manjonjo said:
“According to Section 129 of the Prisons Act, a prisoner can get permission from the minister to attend to personal situations out of prison.
The permission has to be in writing. It only becomes a problem when permission comes from prison authorities or any other person,” said Mrs Gonese-Manjonjo.
Last year, six inmates were released from prison to attend to personal issues upon being granted permission by the minister.
On December 26, Christopher Mhembere was temporarily released from Chikurubi Prison to bury his mother at Marimo Village, Goromonzi.
Gugulami Mabandla who was at Harare Central Prison, left prison to bury his mother on December 4 at Restlands Cemetery in Harare.
Fainos Dick got the green light to attend his wife’s burial at Granville Cemetery in Chinhoyi on September 17 last year.
Dick was at Chinhoyi Prison.
Minister Ziyambi also allowed Victor Moyo to temporarily leave Khami Medium Prison on February 29 last year to attend the burial of his son at Nkunzi, Tsholotsho.
Tawanda Munaiwa Mapinda who was at Marondera Prison on February 13 last year successfully applied for permission to attend her daughter’s burial at Marondera Cemetery.