Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa pardoned up to 3,000 prisoners, including most female inmates, in his first act of clemency, a government notice showed.
The last time prisoners were released en masse was in May 2016 by former president Robert Mugabe when prisons were struggling to feed inmates due to lack of funding from government.
The notice did not give a reason for the amnesty, permitted by the constitution. The move by Mnangagwa, nicknamed “Crocodile” for his reputation as an insular and ruthless politician before his rise to power, comes just months before presidential elections.
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) said the pardon would decongest Zimbabwe’s prisons which have around 20,000 inmates but a holding capacity of only 17,000.
The pardon will benefit all female prisoners except those sentenced to death or facing life sentences, all juveniles and all people jailed for less than 36 months.
It will not be extended to those released during previous amnesties but jailed again, or to those convicted of murder, treason, rape and armed robbery.
“I hope after all the processes, 3,000 people will benefit,” Alford Mashango, ZPCS’s assistant commissioner told reporters.