President pardons prisoners

HARARE - Congestion in Zimbabwe’s prisons is set to ease a bit after President Robert Mugabe acceded to pleas by prison authorities to pardon some prisoners.

Mugabe granted the amnesty, and the clemency will benefit all convicted female prisoners and juveniles, but excludes criminals facing serious charges, including rape or any sexual offences, carjacking, conspiracy, armed robbery, murder and stock theft.

Zimbabwe’s prisons are congested because the crime rate has escalated due to the country’s economic collapse.

According to the latest Government Gazette, the president pardoned prisoners under Clemency Order Number 1 of 2014.

The amnesty was done under Section 112 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

“A remission of the remainder of the period of imprisonment is hereby granted to those female prisoners, regardless of the offence committed, save for those sentenced to life imprisonment and to death,” reads part of the Gazette.

Currently, there are two women on death row. However, the new Constitution outlaws the death penalty for women.

“A full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all juvenile prisoners under the age of 18 serving terms of imprisonment, irrespective of the offences committed,” the presidential proclamation says.

“A full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all those prisoners sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 36 months and below and who would have served a quarter of their sentences by date of gazetting of this Clemency Order.”

The president also granted amnesty to all terminally-ill prisoners who are unlikely to survive their prison terms irrespective of the offences they committed.

“A full remission of sentence be granted to all prisoners serving a term of imprisonament at the open prison,” Mugabe said.

“This category consists of those prisoners who as a result of good behaviour and a genuine desire to reform whilst in closed prison, have been selected for the open prison rehabilitation programmes.

“A full remission of sentence be granted to all prisoners aged 70 and above as at 30 June, 2013, regardless of the offence committed, save for those sentenced to death.”

However, habitual criminals serving a term of extended imprisonment, death sentence prisoners, prisoners serving a sentence imposed by court martial, any person serving a sentence of specified office and any prisoner who escaped jail are excluded from the amnesty.

The country’s 42 prisons have a capacity for 13 000 inmates but currently hold 18 500.

As a result, the Prison Service has not been able to supply adequate rations to inmates.

A recent documentary showed half-naked, skeletal prisoners wasting away from hunger and diseases in some facilities.

Prison officials said they are also strapped for cash, causing “challenges” in fulfilling basic needs for inmates, which include food, clothing and bedding, toiletries and transport, among others.

The Correctional Services says $1,2 million is required monthly for food for the prisoners, but only $300 000 is being received from Treasury.

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