- Southern Africa
Zimbabwe: Mugabe’s prisoner amnesty questioned
Hundreds of prisoners set to be released
President Robert Mugabe, the man widely seen as cruel, has this week shown some compassion on his fellow countrymen. He has granted clemency to 1,500 inmates including life prisoners. However, the genuineness of this compassion has been questioned, as prison authorities have been struggling to feed inmates for sometime now.
In a statement on Thursday morning, prison authorities did not say when the inmates, including 89 women, would be freed. The Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS), in a statement said the move was a “short-term relief” to deal with “challenges in fulfilling its set objectives and statutory obligations which include provision of prisoners’ rations, clothing and bedding, toiletries among others.”
Citing “inadequate financial resources coupled with the unfavourable economic environment”, the ZPS said the prisoner release would free up space and reduce the burden on overstretched jails.
Amnesty International says that nearly 1,000 of Zimbabwe’s 12,900 prisoners died in the first six months of the year in prisons that are overcrowded and filthy.
"His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Comrade RG Mugabe . . . has made an order that has been cited as the clemency order number one of 2009 which serves to release inmates from custody in a variety of categories,".
“Due to inadequate financial resources coupled with the unfavourable economic environment, the Zimbabwe Prison Service has faced challenges in fulfilling its set objectives and statutory obligations which include provision of prisoners’ rations, clothing and bedding, toiletries and transport among others,” the statement reads.
The order was cited as the Clemency Order Number 1 of 2009, published in the Government Gazette of August 21, 2009. All convicted female prisoners and juveniles, except those serving specified offences such as murder, rape or any sexual offences, car-jacking, armed robbery and stock theft, would have the remainder of their sentences remitted.
Other offences not covered by the amnesty include tampering with apparatus for generating, transmitting, distributing or supplying electricity, any conspiracy, incitement or attempting to commit or being an accessory in any of these offences.
The amnesty also excludes prisoners on death row. However basing on past amnesty- three quarters of prisoners released soon find their way back behind bars after committing crime.