HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s move to pardon more than 2 000 inmates across the country is a welcome move as it will decongest overcrowded national prisons where inmates have often complained of poor living conditions which lead outbreaks of deadly diseases at the institutions.
Mugabe freed the convicts from 46 prisons under a special presidential clemency order last week that also saw all female prisoners except those on death row or serving life sentences walking free.
The pardon also covered terminally ill prisoners and those convicted of stock theft.
Zimbabwe’s prison population and indeed that of the generality of the country has borne the brunt of the country’s economic problems.
While there have been calls to improve the living conditions in our jails, the gravity of hunger in the prisons was however exposed to the world at the height of the economic crisis in 2008 when a South African television station screened what they said were hunger related deaths in our prisons.
And it is not a secret that the cash-strapped government has been struggling to feed prisoners across the country’s jails that number 19 900, who have often complained of poor living conditions as government struggles to provide basic balanced diet and prison uniforms.
Parliamentarians have also expressed concern over the poor diet at the underfunded correctional facilities.
While our jails can only hold 17 000, hence they are being overstretched, we hope the latest amnesty will free some space and facilitate better living conditions for those that remain behind. But like any other past pardons, most of those released usually find themselves back behind bars as they fail to integrate back into society.
As society shuns and denies them food, shelter and clothes, they usually revert back to their old bad habits.
We urge society and families in particular to forgive those who have been pardoned and help them reconstruct their lives. For those released, we hope they will desist from their bad practices and embrace a new culture of living because no place is better than home.
We know that victims of those pardoned will be bitter, but we also urge them to forgive and reconcile with their enemies.
There is no need for those wronged to take the law into their own hands and seek revenge.
And for those released, there is no need to boast around that they are untouchables as this can escalate tensions among communities.
Instead they have to utilise the various vocational skills imparted to them while behind bars to build a better Zimbabwe.