AT least 16 inmates sentenced to death have escaped the hangman’s noose when their death penalties were commutated to life when President Mnangagwa pardoned thousands of prisoners across the country in a bid to decongest prisons.
There were 101 inmates on death row countrywide.
Speaking at Harare Central Prison yesterday where 173 inmates were being released, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Banda said some inmates, who had served over 10 years and were on death row had their sentences reduced to life.
“Today among the high profile we are looking at one who was serving a life sentence. He had served over 20 years of his sentence,” she said.
“We have another category of those who were on death penalty whose death sentences have been commuted to life and had served 10 years and above.
“At Harare Central 16 of them had their sentences commuted to life in prison. In the whole country we used to have 101 inmates on death row.”
Asst Comm Banda said at Harare Central Prison at least 534 were expected to be released.
“Across the country so far we have released 1 534 of which 199 of them are females and the rest are males.
“One thing to note is that we have not reached 50 percent of our releases hence we will be expecting slightly more than 3 000 to 4 000 after the whole exercise has been completed,” she said.
“The ones who have been released so far are those whose categories which are straight forward, for example, the women since we were looking at women irrespective of the crimes they committed. Those at Conmara Open Prison, it was all of them. The young offenders it was all of them who were below the age of 18 and then we have those who are over the age of 60.”
Meanwhile, there was joy and jubilation as the prisoners were released with some relatives thronging the penitentiary to welcome their loved ones.
Among those released yesterday were Beroti Maxwell Sibanda jailed 1994.
“The President’s decision to pardon us has come as a relief to me. First and foremost I want to thank prison officials who kept me for 24 years since 1994. I was condemned to face a death penalty but after seven years my sentence was commuted to life and the President saw it fit that I be released to face the world,” he said.
“I was facing a murder charge after I mistakenly killed my father with a knife while trying to defend my mother who had been a victim of violent behaviour since we were young. We were arrested and sentenced to death.
“My mother was released in 2005 under Presidential amnesty.”
He said he was happy to be released but was afraid of relatives who might be still angry over the death he caused.
“I do not know where to start. I do not even know if I still have a wife and relatives. They stopped visiting me a long time ago including my mother.”
The executive director of Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe, Mr Peter Mandiyanike said his organisation was working with prisons in rehabilitating prisoners and re-uniting them with their relatives.
“We have some who were released who were collected by their relatives over the weekend. We will also reach to Mr Sibanda’s relatives in Lupane so he can be integrated back into the family,” he said.
Also released was a Proliner bus driver who caused the deaths of several people in Mvuma, Peter Tirivavi.
He thanked President Mnangagwa for giving him a second chance.
“I would like to thank the President for pardoning me. He has given me another chance,” said Tirivavi.
Patrick Tawonashe was another prisoner released yesterday.
He was mobbed by joyous relatives who included his grandmother Juliana Tawonashe.
“We are very excited to be welcoming our son as you can see he is still a young man. He has been given a second chance in life,” she said.