By Sara Mlozoa
President Lazarus Chakwera, on Friday, August 14, pardoned 499 prisoners as part of reducing congestion in the country’s Prisons and managing the alarming spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the reformatory institutions.
Chakwera has exercised his powers conferred on him under section 89(2) of the Republican Constitution which mandates the head of state to facilitate congestion of prisons through pardoning the convicted offenders, to granting stays of execution of sentence, reducing sentences and remitting sentences.
Currently, the country’s prisons have registered 155 COVID-19 cases with two deaths.
But commenting on the development, one of the country’s human rights organization, Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) has expressed dissatisfaction with the figure of pardoned prisoners saying it is too low.
CHREAA’s Executive Director Victor Mhango, told YFM online that much as the move by the head of state is commendable but the figure is too low to address the current congestion in the prisons.
Mhango said: “We are happy with the move but at the same time we are disappointed with the figures because with the current situation of the pandemic in the prisons, the president would have pardoned more prisoners so that we can create space since our prisons are too congested.”
He further said CHREAA will keep on engaging the president on the matter.
On July 21, 2020, CHREAA in collaboration with other five NGOs, including international institutions, petitioned Chakwera to decongest the country’s prisons by half to avoid the continued spread of COVID-19 pandemic.