About a fifth of all prisoners in Zimbabwe were released on Thursday under a presidential amnesty.
A total of 4270 inmates were let out, according to the Zimbabwe’s correctional service, which described the reprieve as a “noble gesture” by the president.
“We would like to appeal to… society at large to embrace and accept the inmates who have been released,” Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) said in a statement.
“Those aggrieved are encouraged to forgive them”.
The move brings down overcrowding in the country’s more than 50 detention centres. which have capacity for about 17 000 people but held more than 22 000 before the amnesty.


Yet, ZPCS spokesperson Meya Khanyezi told the media “It was not about decongestion”.
“This was just a noble gesture by the president,” she said.
The amnesty was granted to various categories of prisoners including those who have served at least three-quarters of their sentence, or one tenth if over the age of 60.
Majority of those interviewed soon after release were elderly men who had raped minors leaving citizens questioning the process.
Violent criminals as well as those serving time for robbery, treason and public order and security offences were excluded.
Those released will be able to vote in presidential and legislative elections that are to be held in August, although no date has been announced yet.
He granted a similar amnesty at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus in detention facilities.


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