Nyemudzai Kakore and Daniel Nemukuyu
Barely three months after 3 129 prisoners were freed under the Presidential Amnesty, 62 of them are already back in jail on fresh criminal charges.Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Banda said 43 of the re-arrested Presidential pardon beneficiaries have since been convicted and jailed after committing more crimes, while 19 others were still in remand prison pending finalisation of their cases.
“From the total of 62 inmates, 19 are on remand and 43 have been sentenced. Yes, there are women who are back behind bars and their number is 10,” she said.
The prisoners were released when President Mugabe extended a Presidential pardon on February 12 this year in terms of Section 112(1)(a) and (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Prosecutor-General Mr Johannes Tomana said although the convicts were pardoned, previous convictions were considered in fresh sentencing.
Where a prison term is set aside on condition that the convict will not commit a similar crime within a stipulated period, the State checks if the condition is breached upon re-arrest.
“Before sentencing on the new case, we check on previous convictions and if the condition was breached, we bring that to the court’s attention for the suspended sentence to be effected.
“A conviction remains a conviction and it is not taken away by the Presidential pardon. When the prisoners are pardoned, we will be hoping that they will reform but if they demonstrate unrepentance, they have to face the music,” Mr Tomana said.
Harare lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu described the high number of re-arrests development as sad, but this also demonstrated the effectiveness of Zimbabwe’s criminal justice system in that most of the people behind bars deserved to be there.
“It is in the nature of a dog to go back to its vomit and no one can be held responsible. From another angle, it shows the nation how effective the criminal justice system is as the real criminals are finding themselves back in prison,” he said.
Adv Thembinkosi Magwaliba said the re-arrests demonstrated the need for prison authorities to scale up their efforts in rehabilitation and reformation of criminals.
“The development marks a sad indictment of our criminal penal system; it does not give the prisoners a chance to reform and as a result they are back to their old ways upon being released.”
Chief Supt Banda said interviews conducted so far revealed that ex-prisoners usually had no social or economic starting point upon release because of the stigma associated with having been convicted.
“Prisoners are citing economic hardships and difficulty in coping with life challenges for their return to prison,” she said.
Before the amnesty, there were 18 980 prisoners countrywide against a holding capacity of 17 000.
Three Khami Prison ex-inmates were re-arrested a few days after the amnesty when they broke into a house in Nketa 7, Bulawayo and stole an assortment of items worth about US$865.