By Wallace Ruzvidzo
Over 300 prisoners yesterday received the perfect Independence Day present after they walked out of Chikurubi Farm Prison as free men and women, thanks to an amnesty proclaimed by President Mnangagwa.
Over 3 000 prisoners are set to be released countrywide to reduce the prison population as part of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Yesterday, 320 prisoners — including 11 female inmates — became the first beneficiaries of the clemency order, which also covered 12 inmates who were serving life sentences at prisons around the country.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) officer commanding Harare Province, Senior Assistant Commissioner Alvord Gapare, said 400 inmates were set to be released from prisons in the capital.
“So far, for immediate release, we have got a total of 320 inmates, but some more will also be released because their sentences have been reduced by this amnesty,” said Snr Asst Comm Gapare.
“About 400 prisoners will be released from this province. The amnesty will go a long way in reducing our prison population and that obviously means a reduction in expenditure.
“Also, in terms of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, it gives us a very huge advantage and to the prisoners themselves.”
He urged the released inmates to turn away from a life of crime.
“I would like to thank President Mnangagwa for granting this amnesty . . . The best way to express your gratitude is for you to go out there and live well with others.”
ZPCS said only one fatality and 173 cases of the coronavirus had been recorded at Harare Central Prison since the outbreak of the deadly disease in March last year.
However, prison staff have begun to be vaccinated while prisoners will be inoculated soon.
“What happened, first of all, is that we suspended visits to prisons. In other words, we were saying the fact that they are in prison means that they are already isolated from the rest of society. So, that on its own was a measure of trying to combat the spread of Covid-19.
“I must say that so far we have vaccinated our officers but the plan is that in the near future we vaccinate the prisoners,” he said.
Morgan Nyandoro (48), one of the beneficiaries of the amnesty, said being released early from prison gave him the opportunity to go back to his family.
“I just want to thank President Mnangagwa for granting us amnesty,” he said.
“This has made life easier for me because I had missed my family and now I can go back and be reunited with them.
“I have learnt my lesson and I will never commit a criminal offence again.”
Pauline Zindoga (29), who was imprisoned for theft, said she regretted her mistake.
In terms of the amnesty order, all female prisoners and juveniles, those who are not serving specified offences, including those terminally ill and inmates serving up to 36 months prison terms and have served at least one-third of their sentence will be released.
Specified offences include murder, treason, public violence, car-jacking, trafficking in persons, unlawful possession of firearms and rape or any sexual offences.
All those in open prison are also set to walk free, but beneficiaries of previous clemency orders will not be released.
Terminally ill prisoners who have been unwell for a prolonged period will be released upon certification by a correctional medical officer or Government medical officer.
There shall also be a full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment for inmates above 50 years of age with underlying health conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease, provided that they would have served at least one-third of their sentence.
Those above 60 years will only benefit if they have served at least one-third of their sentence.
Inmates serving life sentences will only benefit provided that they would have served at least 15 years, and this category applies to those who had their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment either on appeal or review.
Those who have been on death row for eight years will have their sentence commuted to life. The Sunday Mail