HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says the Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) released Beatrice Hangwende, a murder convict, within the confines of the law.

And Kampyongo says President Edgar Lungu has pardoned 966 inmates to commemorate Independence Day.

Speaking during a press briefing, Monday, Kampyongo explained that the release of Hangwende from custody was taken through all the correct processes.

“It should be recalled that a female inmate, Beatrice Hangwende of Lukwalo village, chief Mungule of Chibombo District, was arrested in 2007 on two accounts of murder and attempted murder. And I think as you recall, she was tried in the High Courts of law and a sentence was passed on the lady in question. However, in the year, 2015, you do recall that there was a general amnesty that were extended to all those on death row, who had their cases confirmed by the Supreme Court and those who were pursuing appeals because of the congestion and there were no institutions that were being done at that juncture,” Kampyongo said.

“From that general amnesty, she further made an appeal in 2018 when she was on life and that appeal was considered and she was then put on 20 years. As the information was given to you by the Correctional Service, they did their calculations and they worked out the dates and that is how she found herself discharged from the correctional facility. The Correctional Service is now a correctional service, and the measures they are putting are not as punitive as it was in the past. So, the lady was taken through all the processes. The Correctional Service did what they did within the confines of the law.”

He said Hangwende’s release would greatly help to increase social distancing in correctional centres as one of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“In commemoration of the 56th independence anniversary, which fell on the 24th of October, 2020, His Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has exercised his Prerogative of Mercy on 966 inmates. 883 ordinary inmates, 10-aged inmates, 21 inmates detained under his Excellency’s pleasure and 26 foreign national inmates and further, His Excellency has also considered petitions from 26 petitioners, who include condemned lifers, and long-term inmates and had their sentences commuted in the following order: seven had their sentences commuted from death to life; from death to 35 years; seven from 35 years to 20 years; one from 30 years to 20 years; three from 30 years to 15 years; one from 20 years to 15 years. And four were pardoned. Among the inmates pardoned, 886 are males, while 80 are females. The current total inmate population as it stands today, 20,735,” said Kampyongo.

“Out of 20,735 inmates, 560 are females while 20,174 are males. This action by His Excellency is in accordance with Article 97 of the Constitution of the laws of Zambia, which provides for Presidential Pardon and substitution of severe punishment imposed in convicted persons. The pardoning of inmates will greatly help to increase the social distancing in our correctional centres as one of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ZCS has continued to put up measures aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19. This is being achieved by transforming some of the correctional centres, such as Mpima and Kamwala Reprimand in Lusaka and Kabwe, respectively, as COVID-19 quarantine centres. It is gratifying to note that the Service has not recorded any inside case of COVID-19 among our inmates.”

Meanwhile, Kampyongo hastened to add that murder convict Mathew Mohan was not part of the inmates released.