THE Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) says murder convict Beatrice Hangwende, who is also a Lusaka business woman has been released from prison because she exhibited good behaviour.
A News Diggers investigation has revealed that Hangwende was released from Prison on September 5, 2020 but her co-accused who were convicted along with her have remained in prison.
In January 20, News Diggers reported that the Zambia Correctional Service had transferred Hangwende from Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe to Lusaka’s Chimbokaila Remand Prison with the aim of providing her comfort.
Members of the public who wrote to the newspaper complained that Hangwende had been made a gender based violence advocate in unclear circumstances in an effort to facilitate her release from prison.
The Correctional Service authority through Head of Public Relations Unit Margaret Nawa confirmed that Hangwende had been moved to Lusaka, but claimed the transfer was not permanent, adding that she was no longer a death row inmate.
“The Zambia Correctional Service did not transfer Beatrice Hangwende from Mukobeko Female Maximum Correctional Facility to Lusaka Central Correctional Centre, as a way of providing her some sort of ‘comfort’. Contrary to the assertions, Beatrice Hangwende is not on permanent transfer to Lusaka Central Female Correctional Facility. Her coming to Lusaka from Kabwe is purely for the purposes of seeking medical attention and attending to other court issues as required by the law. And you may also wish to know that contrary to the assertions, Beatrice is no longer on the death row as her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment some years back. I hope this information will help in putting your records straight,” stated Nawa in response to a press query.
Asked to explain if it was true that Hangwende had finally been released from Prison, ZCS commissioner general, Dr Chisela Chileshe said in an interview that Hagwende was released because of good behaviour.
He said the murder convict’s sentence was further reduced from life to 20 years, and she was released after serving a fraction of her time, under a section of the Prison Act which allows the Commission to discharge inmates who exhibit good behaviour.
“Yes, she was discharged. She actually finished her term. It is just a normal release. She was convicted to death, then her sentence was commuted to life, that is presidential commutation. Then when the prerogative of mercy [committee] sat, she was given a sentence of 20 years. So when you do the mathematics that we do, there is what we call remission of sentences. So once you do a computation of remission plus the years that she served, she was actually released on 5th September 2020. She had served close to ten, 11 or so years before. When you do a computation of 20 years, then you do a remission of one third of 20 years once you do that, a remission is earned for their good behaviour and other aspects that the service considers. So she earned that remission; it is constitutional and it’s through our act that remission is given. So there is nothing like she was released on parole or amnesty, no she served her sentence,” Dr Chileshe explained.
He said Hangwende was not going to be released if she was still on death row or serving a life sentence.
“When you are on death row, you have no remission. When you are on life sentence, you have no remission because your sentence is life, you only have a remission when you have what we may call convicted for a terminable sentence. After her computation from death, to life, then to 20 years, it means that the 20 years was a terminable sentence. So we start from there where the prerogative of mercy has commuted the years or sentence through his Excellency to a terminable of 20 years. So from 20 years, if you have served ten years, it means you are remaining with ten. A number of years that you have served, you subtract from there, that is one formula you can use. Or you can get one third from the 20 years, you remove it and subtract the number of years that you have served, and you find that if you have served quite a number of years, you may find yourself maybe remaining with one year, two years [or] six months. So on 5th September she actually finished her sentence.”
When asked how many prisoners had been considered under the condition that led to Hagwende’s discharge, Dr Chileshe said the records were there at government printers, but Hangwende’s discharge would not be found on the list because she was considered someone who finished her sentence.
“Go to government printers and get the gazette because those are in public. How many inmates have been commuted, how many inmates have been pardoned, how many inmates have been given amnesty, you will find them there. But for her, you will only find the previous prerogative of mercy and the amnesty records, I think it should be those same years that she was on that list. But for the normal discharge you will not find her on anything because it is a normal finished sentence.” said Dr Chileshe.
Hangwende, a famous Lusaka business woman was sentenced to death along with her elder brother John and two others for murdering her husband’s lover Monica Chabwera Phiri in cold blood 13 years ago.