By Victor Maphosa
More than 1 600 prisoners who qualified for release under the Presidential amnesty gazetted last week were released from various prisons this morning.
Only 53 women benefited from the amnesty after it turned out that women topped in the commission of specified offences like murder, robbery, carjacking, sexual offences and public violence.
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) had initially recommended the release of 5 000 prisoners in a bid to decongest the country’s prisons to 16 838, but most of the inmates failed the test.
Speaking during the release of the pardoned prisoners in Harare, ZPCS national public relations officer Superintendent Khanyezi Meya said the decongestion of prisons is crucial in the wake of COVID-19.
“Today we released 1680 prisoners nationwide who qualified for release under the Presidential amnesty. Two hundred and seventy-six were released from Harare province while the rest are from various provinces.
“We welcome this measure as it is going to decongest our prisons, especially in the wake of COVID-19,” she said.
Superintendent Khanyezi urged the public to accept and assist the released prisoners so that they can be easily re-integrated into the society.
“We call on the public, particularly their relatives to accept them. This will help in the reintegration process into the society. Most of the released prisoners sometimes find their way back to prisons because they would have not been accepted into the society.
One of the prisoners Najim Essop thanked the Government for the amnesty.
“I was convicted of charges of unlawful entry and had served 36 months in prison. I was supposed to be released in March next year. But here I am today, all because President Mnangagwa pardoned me.
“I am grateful to the President for this. I have learnt a lot in prison and I am a changed person now. I will never take what is not mine.”
Mnangagwa last week issued a clemency order for non-violent offenders.
Those eligible for immediate release, for as 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 of their sentences; and those over 70 who have served half of their sentences.
Offenders excluded from the amnesty include those convicted of murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, carjacking, 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. The Herald