Investigations and Special Reports Editor
A BREAKDOWN of the list of 2 528 prisoners released last week under presidential amnesty shows that at least 60% were serving for house breaking and theft and the police crime management system has been activated to track and tightly monitor them to prevent re-offending.
President Mnangagwa last week amended the Clemency Order issued in March this year to allow more prisoners to go home.
In March 1 680 prisoners were set free, a figure far short from the expected 5 000.
However, last week’s amendment saw 2 528 more prisoners being released. Among the beneficiaries, over 1 500 beneficiaries of the amnesty were serving sentences for crimes of theft and unlawful entry.
Of the 397 prisoners freed in Harare province, 245 were serving sentences for unlawful entry and theft.
In Masvingo a total of 162 inmates benefited from the Clemency Order and 108 of them were in jail for cases of theft and unlawful entry.
In Mashonaland West province, 165 out of 283 pardoned prisoners fell in the category of theft and unlawful entry into premises.
Prisons in Bulawayo province released 355 prisoners of which 190 were serving sentences for theft and unlawful entry.
Matabeleland North province released 98 inmates and 56 of them were incarcerated for crimes of unlawful entry and theft.
In an interview, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said his office had liaised with the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to get profiles of the offenders with a view to track them to their destinations and ensure police in their areas keep an eye on them. Asst Comm Nyathi warned those who intend to re-offend that the police were watching them through the crime management and tracking system.
“There is interaction and information sharing between the police and ZPCS on the release of beneficiaries on amnesty.
“For example if an ex-prisoner is going to Hwange, Bulawayo, Mutoko and other places like Mutare, we arrange with the police there, alerting them that they are coming.
“Police monitoring and surveillance crime management helps to track and monitor habitual criminals to curb crime.
“If there are ex-prisoners who think they can commit further offences and get away with murder, they must be warned that police are watching them.
“They are already under surveillance and they will be arrested,” he said. Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Mrs Virginia Mabiza said her ministry had also put in place measures to monitor the ex-prisoners and rehabilitate them to ensure they reform. She said some of the measures have always been there to ensure the offenders are accepted in their communities.
“Rehabilitation is a continuous process. When prisoners are released, they are monitored and as they go out, they are also checked to see if they are integrating well.
“There are also ways to encourage society to accept them and not to stigmatise them. However, it’s a pity to come across some who are likely to re-offend. We believe with the quality of training that they are getting in prison and the reintegration processes, they may not see it necessary to come here again,” she said. Mrs Mabiza said traditional leaders, non-Governmental organisations involved in rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders are also useful in ensuring the freed offenders do not commit further offences.
Harare lawyer Mr Wellington Pasipanodya said chances were high that most of the beneficiaries reformed while in prison. He however, urged people to tighten security on their properties considering that some unrepentant ex-prisoners may be tempted to steal.
“The Zimbabwe Prisons and correctional services is tasked with rehabilitating and reforming convicted criminals during their prison tenure, as such the hope is the beneficiaries of the Presidential amnesty have reformed and realised the adverse consequences of crime. However, the possibility of some bad apples still existing among the lot cannot be ruled out.