President Mnangagwa has approved the amnesty on prisoners serving lighter sentences or who have served over one-third of their sentences, following a request by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS).
ZPCS Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu said this in an interview yesterday on the sidelines of his tour of Beitbridge Prison.
He said the ZPCS was keen to decongest the correctional facilities to control the spread of Covid-19.
“His Excellency, the President has today (yesterday) signed our request to offer amnesty to some prisoners. What is only left is to gazette the new order so that we may be able to release those who qualify,” said Comm-Gen Chihobvu.
Already, the ZPCS has suspended visits by friends and relatives of inmates to curb the spread of the pandemic in correctional facilities.
In addition, no new clothes are allowed from outside.
Comm-Gen Chihobvu said they have also provided more face masks, sanitisers, hand washing basins and disinfecting chemicals to prisons.
He said to bolster their capacity, they were also implementing other health safety precautions as prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Comm-Gen Chihobvu could not give the numbers of inmates that are set to be pardoned.
“I don’t have the statistics off-hand, but we are hopeful that the amnesty will help a great deal in de-congesting crowded correctional facilities.
“At the same time, I want to urge those that will benefit from the clemency to take this as a second chance for them to lead a better life,” he said.
ZPCS, he said, recently introduced a new course on Peace and Education that incorporates the rehabilitation of D Class inmates.
Inmates are graded into four classes, A to D, and those in D Class are the ones serving long-term sentences ranging from seven years and above, including those who would have committed serious crimes some of which include murder, armed robbery, fraud, or rape, among others.
Comm-Gen Chihobvu said D Class inmates were previously left with nothing to do because of their classification.
“We now have a correctional and rehabilitation service provider and hence we are carrying along everyone as we seek to build a peace-loving community,” he said.
“This Peace and Education course will benefit all the inmates who were previously being overlooked so that they may be able to find their feet and live better lives post-prison life.
“We are also teaching the community and prison officers so that we have a smooth reintegration of inmates in the society”.
Comm-Gen Chihobvu said besides the new course, they were also training inmates on a number of disciplines including horticulture piggery, poultry, arts, hay making, and garment construction.
Their main thrust was to rehabilitate and empower offenders so that they may be able to reflect on their past mistakes and live better lives as opposed to hardening them.
Comm-Gen Chihobvu said he has so far visited nine provinces in the country to assess the state of affairs and was impressed with the level of commitment by the prison wardens.
“I am yet to visit Mashonaland East, but what I have seen so far is impressive.
“To bolster our manpower and address issues of natural attrition we are currently training over 1 000 officers in Ntabazinduna,” he said.