By Trevor Makonyonga
Cabinet approved a proposal by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to conduct a General Amnesty set to decongest the country’s overcrowded prisons.
This was revealed by Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa in a post cabinet briefing held yesterday, March 16 in Harare.
“Cabinet considered and approved the proposed General Amnesty, which was presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. Section 112 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe empowers the President after consultation with Cabinet, to exercise the power of mercy to grant pardon to any person concerned in or convicted of an offence against law,” said Mutsvangwa.
The pardoning of prisoners is set to cut down on the overpopulation in the prisons by about 3 500 people.
“The amnesty will decongest the prison institution whose population currently stands at 20 407 against the prison’s holding capacity of 17 000. The overpopulation already poses a health hazard, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the recommended measures to curtail the spread of the disease” .
The amnesty will be targeted at inmates who have served at least one third of their sentence but there will be specified offences which will not be considered.
“The Proposed General Amnesty is targeted at all prisoners who have served at least one third of their sentences, save for those convicted of specified offences such as the following: murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, carjacking, robbery, stock theft, and public violence.
There shall be full remission of sentence to be granted to all prisoners who would have served life imprisonment for at least 15 years commutation.
In 2020 the Forum, a coalition of civil society organizations that advocates for human rights made recommendations for the decongesting of prisons citing health hazards which the government seems to have taken hid of.