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Mnangagwa pardons more prisoners

by Staff reporter
06 May 2020 at 07:42hrs | Views
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has pardoned 2 500 more prisoners from different prisons countrywide under the recently amended Presidential clemency order as part of measures to de-congest the country's prisons whose population had ballooned to over 20 000.

A total of 2 528 more prisoners were between Monday night and early Tuesday morning released under Clemency Order 1 of 2020 (Amendment) published in the Government Gazette XCVIII, No. 39, dated 30 April 2020.

Those who have served 20 years in jail, prisoners aged 60 years and above including those sentenced to life imprisonment as well as the disabled are among those released. The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) assisted the released prisoners with passes and bus fares to travel to their respective homes.

The release of the prisoners comes barely a month after President Mnangagwa exercised his constitutional powers to release 5 000 prisoners in terms of Section 112(1)(a) and (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. In an interview yesterday, Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said the President exercised his prerogative of mercy when he pardoned additional prisoners through the General Amnesty under Clemency Order 1 of 2020.

"As Zimbabwe marked its 40th anniversary of independence on 18 April 2020, President Mnangagwa has once again exercised his prerogative of mercy pardoning additional prisoners by granting a General Amnesty under Clemency Order 1 of 2020 (Amendment) published in the Government Gazette XCVIII, No. 39 dated 30 April 2020. This move follows the recent release of inmates reuniting with society through Clemency Order 1 of 2020," she said. "We used the same order to come up with more categories of prisoners benefitting from the Presidential Clemency Order."

President Mnangagwa Mrs Mabhiza said the latest amnesty, which is a routine exercise carried out by Government to decongest and alleviate challenges faced by the ZPCS, follows a request by her ministry. The country's prison population stands at 22 000 against an official holding capacity of 17 000.

"We appreciate this move which is set to decongest our correctional facilities that have been operating with an increased prison population. It is also in line with the realisation that offenders are behind bars to be corrected and not to be punished," she said.

"This move comes as we have just marked 40 years of our Independence where in this era rehabilitation of offenders is of utmost importance as opposed to the colonial era which was characterised by retribution."

Mrs Mabhiza said communicable diseases like Covid-19 can spread easily in confined places and decongesting prisons is therefore critical. She also urged society to embrace the released inmates.

"In addition, we remind offenders released to pay back the honour bestowed upon them by living as law abiding citizens. In this era of rehabilitation of offenders, we would also want to reflect on justice to offenders to safeguard the rights and health of all persons in prison especially during the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

"The released inmates are supposed to draw lessons from the clemency and choose to live responsibly. Society is called upon to bury the hatchet and complement efforts to rehabilitate offenders by facilitating offender re-entry into society."

Mrs Mabhiza said ZPCS should also ensure that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the human rights of prisoners are upheld as well as taking the specific needs of the most vulnerable inmates.

"It is also of paramount importance to note that convicted inmates and persons on remand are among those most vulnerable to viral contagion as they are held in a high-risk environment in general. Detention facilities are not adapted to face large-scale epidemics, for example the basic protective measures such as social distancing and hygiene rules cannot be observed as easily as outside hence exposing inmates to greater health risks," she said.

"To effectively meet the challenge of fighting the coronavirus outbreak in places of detention, it is ideal to urgently adopt and implement a humane environment which is supported by adequate human and financial resources."

According to the clemency order, President Mnangagwa also commuted to life imprisonment, sentences of inmates who were on death row for at least 10 years or more. However, murder, treason, rape,, armed robbery, carjacking, sexual offences or violence driven offences do not qualify for Presidential pardon. Other prisoners also excluded from the amnesty include habitual criminals previously released on amnesty and those serving a sentence imposed by a court martial or have a record of escaping from lawful custody.

The amnesty has emptied the country's juvenile and female prisoners, regardless of the offence committed, save for those convicted of murder, treason any sexual offence, carjacking, robbery, stock theft, public violence, any conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit any of those offences.

"Full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment to inmates is hereby granted to all female inmates, save for those convicted of specified offences. Full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment to all juveniles. Remission of sentence on medical grounds," read the order.

Prisoners who were serving an effective period of imprisonment of more than 36 months and had served a third of their remaining sentence were also granted an additional one quarter remission of the remaining effective period of imprisonment.

The President, under the Constitution, has powers to substitute lesser sentences than those imposed by the courts. It is this power that has been used in the past, using a formula to ensure equal treatment. The prisoners still have criminal records, which will count against them if they repeat the offence, and their convictions stand.

Source - chronicle