Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has pardoned thousands of prisoners including all female inmates as part of measures to decongest the prisons whose population had ballooned to 20 000.
The prisons’ holding capacity is 17 000 inmates.
In a clemency order, President Mnangagwa also commuted to life imprisonment inmates who were on death row for more than 10 years.
However, murder, treason, rape, armed robbery; car-jacking, sexual offences or violence driven offences do not qualify for the Presidential pardon.
The President extended the amnesty in terms of Section 112 (1) (a) and (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The amnesty has emptied the country’s female and juvenile prisons. “A full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all female prisoners, regardless of the offence committed, save for those sentenced to life imprisonment or death.
Full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all juvenile prisoners under the age of 18 years serving terms of imprisonment, irrespective of the offences they committed,” read a statement from the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.
President Mnangagwa has also freed all male prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment on or before 28 February 1998 as well as all female prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment on or before 31 December 2010.
By January there were 99 inmates on death row and one of them a woman. “Commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment is hereby granted to all prisoners who have been on death row for ten years and above,” read the statement
Also pardoned are inmates sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 36 months and below and who would have served a quarter of their sentence.
All terminally ill prisoners serving long terms irrespective of offences committed will be released as well as all those housed at Connemara Open Prison while inmates aged above 60 years, who have served one third of their sentence, would also be released.
“This category consists of prisoners who as a result of good behaviour and a genuine desire to reform whilst in closed prison have been selected for the open prison rehabilitation programmes,” read the statement.
Inmates convicted of stocktheft who would have served one third of their sentence have also been freed.
Disabled inmates, who are blind and physically disabled and those who rely on other persons to be moved around the prison have also been released. “An additional one quarter remission of the remaining effective period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all those prisoners sentenced to imprisonment for a period of more than 36 months and have served at least one third of the effective term of imprisonment”.
Habitual criminals serving extended imprisonment, people previously released on amnesty, people sentenced by a court martial and any person who escaped from lawful custody will remain behind bars.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Elizabeth Banda, commended President Mnangagwa for pardoning prisoners which will decongest the prisons.
“The exercise has not only gone a long way in decongesting our prisons but has served as a reminder to inmates and society that the purpose of imprisonment is founded on the pretext of reformation than retribution. It is now left to society to ensure that those released reintegrate safely and well in their respective communities,” said Asst Comm Banda.
She encouraged society to assist and accept the returnees as they have made efforts to rehabilitate them and also urged the beneficiaries of the amnesty to desist from committing further offences.
“We call upon all stakeholders including families, churches, after care groups, business community and society at large to facilitate the ex-offenders’ reintegration.
“Beneficiaries of this presidential pardon are advised to respect this amnesty by refraining from further committing crimes that will see them returning to prison. We expect them to live as law-abiding citizens if society is to trust and embrace them,” she said.