President Edgar Lungu has pardoned 464 inmates from various correctional facilities around the country in commemoration of Africa Freedom Day.

And President Lungu has commuted 50 out of 123 petitioned sentences from death to life sentences and from life to terminable sentences.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo has confirmed that Kamwala Remand Prison will be sold to developers while remandees will be transferred to a new facility in Mwembeshi which is still under construction.

“The President of this Republic, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu has today the 24th May 2018 exercised his prerogative of mercy on 464 inmates based in various correctional facilities throughout the Republic of Zambia. This is in accordance with Article 97 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia which provides for Presidential pardon and substitution of severe punishment imposed on convicted persons. Accordingly, the president has commuted the sentences of prisoners from death role to life and from life to terminable sentences. It should be noted that the advisory committee on the prerogative of mercy recommended only 52 petitioners out of 123 petitions for commutation of death sentences to life and life sentences to terminable sentences ranging from 25 years to 40 years,” Kampyongo said at a press briefing, Thursday.

Kampyongo also disclosed that the committee on prerogative declined to consider any petitions of inmates convicted for defilement cases as a way of sending a strong signal to would be offenders.

“The committee however declined to consider any petition of inmates convicted of defilement cases. And this is in order to send a strong signal to offenders and would-be offenders of this senseless crime. In commemoration of the 2018 Africa Freedom Day, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia has pardoned 413 inmates and commuted sentences o 51 inmates. 33 of the pardoned inmates were detainees under His Excellency the President pleasure. Persons detained under His Excellency the President’s pleasure committed capital offences owing to their mental illnesses. In short these are people who end up committing crimes due to their state of mind. They were held under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Court and three at correctional facilities namely, Livingstone Central, Kanfinsa state and Chinama East hospital under the supervision of consultant psychiatrists,” Kampyongo said.

He also revealed that 33 of the pardoned inmates were detainees under the President pleasure due to their mental illnesses.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs, staff at the Zambia Correctional Facility, inmates of the correctional facilities throughout the country are indeed grateful to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia for exercising his prerogative of mercy at a time when the correctional facilities are extremely congested. We are also aware and alive to the fact that indeed this is not only meant to deal with the issue of decongestion but his Excellency is exercising the powers invested in him under the law. The staff of the Zambia correctional service is confident that the pardoned persons have been rehabilitated and are ready for reintegration in society,” Kampyongo explained.

He urged communities and families of the pardoned inmates to help the former inmates reintegrate.

“However I must state that successful reintegration of former inmates is largely dependent on the support from members of the public and members of the immediate families. So communities in this case must play their role of supporting those that are coming to reintegrate in society. We strongly call upon the families of the pardoned inmates and members of the public at large to support the former inmates by not discriminating against them,” Kampyongo said.

Responding to Maiko Zulu’s call that government should release those who were convicted for drug related offences due to the fact that the Ministry of Health was about to consider legalising marijuana for medicinal purposes, Kampyongo said the calls were misplaced.

“The pronouncement from the Minister of Health is very clear and its clear in the sense that they are trying to look at scientific research into how marijuana can be utilised like in other countries where it is used for medicinal purposes. And so that is very clear. So I don’t see how that can relate to the misplaced call from one St Maiko. I call it misplaced because it doesn’t correlate with the pronouncement from the minister. If someone is convicted for abuse of drugs, how does it connect to the new economic policy? And let him seek information before he can comment on matters of public interest,” he said.

The minister said that Zambian prison facilities were crowded with by over 200 percent.

“We have had Human Rights Reports year in year out talking about these same challenges but yet there was no corresponding or solutions from the government. So we are happy that we are here under the leadership of His Excellency to make sure that these facilities are expanded. And if you look at the figures that I gave, 400 against 21, 000 plus inmates, it’s just like a drop [in the ocean]. And we don’t want to use this [pardoning] as a way of decongesting, decongesting is by providing enough facilities which can be able to accommodate the increasing number of inmates,” he said.

Asked if it was true that government was planning to sell Kamwala Remand Prison, Kampyongo said the facility would be left for developers while remandees will be taken to a new facility in Mwembeshi which was yet to be completed.

“You are aware that Kamwala is sitting at a very wrong location. Just next to it is a residential area and now there is all that commercial development that has come around it…we started looking at that way back and we realised that it was not going to be attainable. So we got into a PPP arrangement where we had the developers coming up with a proposal. And so one of the facilities that is coming up in Mwembeshi is out of this initiative. So we would like that area to be ceded so that it can go for the purpose of that particular location, to take care of existing interest, the residential area which is there and the commercial facilities around there. So one the facility [in Mwembeshi is complete], and the housing unit that are going with that facility, then that Kamwala will be left to the developer for them to develop that particular area. But the facility which they are building will have much more like maybe triple in terms of capacity than the capacity that we have at Kamwala Remand Prison,” said Kampyongo.