ZIMBABWE: EIGHT DEATH SENTENCES COMMUTED AND 1.680 INMATES RELEASED
|President Emmerson Mnangagwa
April 6, 2020:
At least eight prisoners, who have been on the death row for periods ranging from 10 to 12 years, this week had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment in line with the recent Presidential clemency order, ZimEye reported on 4 April 2020. The eight, who were facing the hangman’s noose, will now spend life in jail. President Mnangagwa recently issued a clemency order for non-violent offenders. (Sources: zimeye.net, 04/04/2020)
Prisoners who have spent at least 10 years on death row, according to the order, should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Superintendent Meya Khanyezi confirmed the development.
“We have eight inmates, whose death penalties were commuted to life imprisonment,” she said.
“The longest serving prisoner was sentenced in 2008, while the one with the least years on death row was sentenced in 2010.
“The other six were sentenced between 2008 and 2010.”
The recent amnesty saw only 1.680 prisoners qualifying for release out of the targeted 5.000. This was because the majority were convicted of serious offences and have not yet served at least half their sentences, the criteria for benefiting.
Only 53 women out of 456 benefited from the amnesty after it turned out that many women in prison committed specified offences like murder, robbery, car-jacking, sexual offences and public violence.
President Mnangagwa used his constitutional powers of mercy to effect the amnesty, desired to reduce the prison population to levels that can be accommodated safely. All the released prisoners and those with shorter effective sentences still have criminal records and, if a portion of their original sentence was suspended, those suspended sentences can be brought into effect should they re-offend since the amnesty order only looks at remission of effective sentences.
In Harare, 279 prisoners were released from prison while 185 were freed in Mashonaland province.
In Manicaland, 202 were set free, while Bulawayo prison population was reduced by 198.
Mashonaland West, East and Midlands offloaded 166, 127 and 296 respectively.
In Masvingo, 85 prisoners were freed while Matabeleland South and North prisons released 75 and 66 respectively.
The country’s prisons have a carrying capacity of 17.000, but before the amnesty, there were 21.838 inmates.
The amnesty reduced the total number of inmates to 20.158, a figure above the maximum holding capacity.