HARARE, Zimbabwe

In a bid to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Zimbabwean government has pardoned prisoners who have served at least a third of their sentence, a government official announced.

Prisoners on life sentences and who have served at least 15 years are also liable for clemency, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told reporters after a Cabinet meeting late on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe’s Constitution allows the president to grant clemency to individuals involved in or convicted of an offense against the law, said Mutsvangwa.

“The proposed general amnesty is targeted at all prisoners who have served at least one-third of their sentences,” she added.

According to Mutsvangwa, the measure will not include prisoners convicted of offenses such as murder, treason, rape or any sexual offense, carjacking, robbery, stock theft and public violence.

Zimbabwean prisons were constructed during the colonial era with a maximum holding capacity of 17,000. They now hold 20,407 prisoners.

When the first wave of the COVID-19 struck in Zimbabwe, between March and June 2020, Zimbabwe released 4,208 prisoners to ease the congestion and allow social distancing.

Last year, one facility out of 46 across the country reported a COVID-19 outbreak in July, with at least 43 inmates and 23 prison officers testing positive.

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