Victor Maphosa Herald Reporter
At least 1 680 prisoners were yesterday released from prisons countrywide under the presidential amnesty.
Beneficiaries of the amnesty comprised 53 women and 1 627 men.
Some women failed to qualify for amnesty after it turned out they were serving jail terms for specified offences like murder, robbery, car-jacking, sexual offences and public violence.
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) had initially recommended the release of 5 000 prisoners to reduce the prison population to 16 838, but most inmates failed the test.
Speaking during the release of the pardoned prisoners in Harare yesterday, ZPCS national public relations officer Superintendent Meya Khanyezi said the de-congestion of prisons was important, particularly in the wake of Covid-19.
“Today we released 1 680 prisoners nationwide, who qualified for release under the Presidential Amnesty,” she said. “We welcome this measure as it is going to de-congest our prisons, especially in the wake of Covid-19.”
Supt Khanyezi urged the public to accommodate those released and assist in their reintegration into society.
“We plead with the public, particularly their relatives, to accept them,” she said. “This will help their reintegration process. Most of the released prisoners find their way back to prison in no time because they would have not been accepted into the society.”
Supt Khanyezi said the released prisoners were given bus fare and travelling documents to enable them to reach their respective destinations.
“We gave them bus fare and each was given a pass which will make it easy for them to reach their destinations during this lockdown,” she said. “We also have educated them on measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
One of the prisoners, Najim Essop, thanked President Mnangagwa for the amnesty.
“I was convicted of charges of unlawful entry and had served 36 months in prison,” he said. “I was supposed to be released in March next year. But here I am today, our President has pardoned me. I am so grateful. I learnt a lot in prison and I am now a changed person. I will never take what is not mine.”
Remember Mushaninga, another pardoned prisoner said: “This amnesty is very important to me. I am going to meet my family today and this excites me. I have realised that crime does not pay. I have learnt my lesson.”
President Mnangagwa recently issued a clemency order for non-violent offenders.
Those eligible for immediate release, so long as they were not found guilty of the specified offences that generally cover crimes of violence, are: women prisoners who have served at least half their effective sentence; juvenile prisoners who have served a third; those sentenced to 36 months or less who have served half; and those over 70 who have served half of their sentences.
Offenders excluded from the amnesty included those convicted of murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, car-jacking, robbery, stock theft and public violence, plus any conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit these crimes or being an accessory after the fact to these crimes.
Those who have not served at least half their sentences, according to the latest clemency order, were excluded.