By Robert Tapfumaneyi/Alois Vinga
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has directed the freeing of 5 000 prisoners with immediate effect as he declared a 21-day coronavirus national lockdown to avert a further rise in local cases of the pandemic which reached five inside a week, on Thursday.
On Friday, Mnangagwa gazetted Clemency Order 1 of 2020, which orders the release of all female prisoners who have served more than half of their sentences and all those serving time in open prisons.
Also to be released are juveniles and all bedridden prisoners.
However, prisoners who are excluded from the amnesty are inmates who found themselves back in jail having been released on amnesty before.
Those who are not eligible for release also include inmates serving sentences imposed by a court martial, prisoners with a record of escaping from lawful custody and those with “specified offences”.
Specified offences are; murder, treason, rape or sexual offences, carjacking, robbery, stocktheft, public violence, conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit any of the mentioned offences.
“Under the Clemency Order No 1 of 2020 full remission of sentence for all convicted female prisoners, full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all female save for those convicted of specified offences,” reads the order.
“The inmate should have served half her sentence. Juveniles under the age of 18 years who have also served a third of their sentence have been granted amnesty.
“Prisoners serving an effective period of imprisonment of more than 36 months who have served a third of their remaining sentence are hereby granted an additional one-quarter remission of the remaining effective period of imprisonment.”
For prisoners serving life imprisonment, full remission of sentence would be granted to convicts that have served life imprisonment for at least 25 years.
“This include, prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, prisoners whose sentences were commuted from death to life imprisonment and prisoners whose sentences were altered to life imprisonment on appeal or review,” the order adds.
A commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment has been granted to all prisoners who have been on the death row for at least ten years and above.
Zimbabwe’s overcrowded prisons are packed with 22 000 inmates from a holding capacity of 17 000.
The release order comes after an appeal to government by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to speed up the implementation of the amnesty to try and avert the spread of Covid-19 inside the country’s prisons.