Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent
Another 2 528 prisoners were released yesterday under the amended amnesty proclaimed by President Mnangagwa shortening their jail terms to time served.
They join 1 680 others who were freed in March.
Among those released yesterday were 172 women, with Norest Marumha possibly getting the largest remission since she was sentenced more than two years ago for 20 years over a human trafficking scandal that left several women stranded in Kuwait.
She was the local agent in a trafficking saga that saw Zimbabwean women lured to the Middle East on false promises of good jobs.
Six of those released yesterday were serving life terms, having completed at least 20 years behind bars to qualify for clemency, including murderer Jorum Siwela — a former Chapungu Football Club player — who killed his rival suitor in a love triangle 22 years ago.
The inmates going home yesterday came from prisons across the country. Harare prisons released 396, Mashonaland Central 259, Mashonaland West 283, Mashonaland East 242, Manicaland 321, Midlands 322, Masvingo 162, Bulawayo 280, Matabeleland North 98, and Matabeleland South 165.
In an interview, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Officer Commanding Harare province, Senior Assistant Commissioner Alvord Gapare said the Presidential clemency will ease pressure on the available resources.
“The release of inmates will go a long way in reducing pressure on available resources,” he said. “It decongests our prisons and we commend the President for pardoning these prisoners.
“Before releasing them, we carried a voluntary Covid-19 testing and we are happy that their results came out negative. We also educated them on the health measures they should observe to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
“We also assisted them with letters and bus fare to see them through to their destinations.” One of the pardoned life prisoners, James Dube, thanked Government for the freedom.
“I was arrested for murder in 1996 at the age of 22 in Gokwe,” he said. “I was sentenced to death in 1998. Later, I was removed from death to life sentence.
“I want to thank President Mnangagwa for this amnesty. I thought I would die in prison, but the President has pardoned me. I am now a free man. I have learnt a lot during these years and I urge the remaining inmates to behave well.”
Another life prisoner from Harare Central Remand Prison, Jacob Harineki, was freed after serving 22 years for murder. Harineki was jailed at 34 before being released yesterday at the age of 56.
“I came to jail at a young age,” he said. “I had nothing and now I am going back into the society with nothing. I appeal to anyone who can employ me so that I can start my life again.”
Another freed life inmate, Maxwell Sibanda (56), had nowhere to go after release, but Pastor Dickson Moyo of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church came to his rescue. Sibanda had served 26 years for murder before his life sentence was cut to the 26 years he had served.
Pastor Moyo, who is the church’s prison director, offered to take Sibanda to his home until he finds his relatives. “We must always be there for other people when they are in need,” he said. “This is not our first time as SDA to assist prisoners who do not have anywhere to go after their release.”
Norest Marumha, the Kuwait trafficking local agent, could not hide her joy on tasting freedom yesterday.
“On my first day in prison, I was depressed,” she said. “That was the same day thousands of pardoned inmates were leaving this place. That night I could not sleep. I was always in tears. However, I want to thank officers here who, through a series of counselling sessions, managed to calm me down until I accepted my situation.
“Today I got a new lease of life. I am going out there as a new creature, completely changed for the better. I want to thank my President for giving us another chance.”
Marumha’s mother, who preferred to be addressed as Madzimai Memory, was in tears of joy, hugging and kissing her daughter. “When my daughter was sentenced to 20 years in prison, I collapsed,” she said. “I could not believe it. Every weekend I would visit her here. I only stopped due to the lockdown. Everyday, I would kneel to pray for my daughter and today, my prayers have been answered.”