Mnangagwa’s amnesty order riddled with errors

Spread the love

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa extended amnesty to over 4 000 prisoners, including some who were on death row, on Independence Day, but legal grouping Veritas says the order is riddled with drafting errors that require immediate attention.


The amnesty, issued through Clemency Order No. 1 of 2024, benefits female, older and juvenile inmates, the terminally ill and some who were originally sentenced to death.
Those previously on death row but had their sentences commuted to life terms in previous clemency orders or through court appeals are to be freed provided they have been in prison for at least 20 years.

In an analysis, Veritas said President Mnangagwa erred in granting amnesty to juveniles and elderly people, while excluding those charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, as most crimes committed are tied to it.

“The amnesty is a noble attempt by the President to show forgiveness to prisoners on this day, the 44th anniversary of our Independence. It is most unfortunate that the amnesty has been marred by what must be drafting errors, and we hope they will be rectified without delay. The exclusion of juveniles charged under the Criminal Law Code must surely be a mistake,” reads the analysis.

“The Code covers pretty well all well-known crimes, which range in seriousness from treason and murder to mischievously knocking on doors and throwing litter in a public place. It is hard to think of any crime of which a juvenile might ordinarily be convicted that is not covered by the Code. Most if not all the juveniles currently in prison have been charged under the Code. If the Order is not amended they will not be entitled to release.”

“Prisoners who are 60 years old and older are entitled to be released if they have served one-tenth of their sentences, provided they were not charged under the Criminal Law Code. This means that most if not all these prisoners will have to remain in prison.”

While there are general exceptions to the amnesty, Veritas said some of them were widely expressed, which is likely to result in the overlooking of some prisoners.

For instance, while the order releases female prisoners who have served at least one-third of their sentences, this did not however apply to prisoners who were convicted of “specified offences”.

The specified offences include murder, treason, sexual offences, carjacking, robbery, public violence, human trafficking, unlawful possession of firearms, and contravening the Electricity Act, the Postal and Telecommunications Act or the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act or POSA.

“Some of these specified offences are too widely expressed. Many of the offences under the Electricity Act, the Postal and Telecommunications Act and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act could be minor fairly minor – failing to submit returns, or disorderly conduct in a post office, for example – and there is no reason why prisoners who have committed those offences should not be amnestied,” reads the analysis.

While the order said prisoners serving more than 48 months are entitled to an additional remission of one-quarter of the effective term of their imprisonment, Veritas said there is no clarity on the additional remission.

According to the analysis, the order also falls when it rejects amnesty for prisoners that are terminally ill and those with certain disabilities who are charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

“Prisoners who have been medically certified as terminally ill are entitled to be released. Once again, under this Clemency Order, this does not apply to prisoners who were charged under the Criminal Law Code – which means, as we pointed out above, that most of these prisoners cannot be released,” reads the analysis.

Prisoners who have served one-third of their sentences and who are visually impaired or “are physically challenged to the extent that they cannot be catered for in a prison or correctional environment” are entitled to be released.

“If prisoners are so disabled they cannot be catered for in prison, one shudders to think what they may have endured while serving their sentences so far. One wonders too why they were sentenced to imprisonment in the first place.”

Last year, former Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira, who once said she could not face a corruption trial due to mental illness, was sworn in as senator, four years after being charged for grand corruption involving US$95 million at the state-run National Social Security Authority (Nssa) pension fund.

This raised questions over whether she would be able to effectively perform her duties as a senator.

Meanwhile, prisoners with disabilities but are charged under the Criminal Code have been excluded from the amnesty.

Source: News Hawk