PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has pardoned 579 inmates from various correctional facilities countrywide to commemorate African Freedom Day which falls on May 25, 2021.

In a statement, Monday, Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Masiye Banda said the Head of State pardoned 548 males and 31 females.

He said the pardoning of inmates would help to increase social distancing in correctional centres to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“To commemorate Africa Freedom Day, his Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence force has exercised his prerogative of mercy by pardoning 579 inmates. Of these, 562 are ordinary inmates and 17 are inmates detained under His Excellency Pleasure (HEPS). This action by the Republican President is in accordance with article 97 of the constitution of the Republic of Zambia, which provides for presidential pardon and substitution of severe punishments imposed on convicted persons,” Banda stated.

“Among the pardoned, 548 are males and 31 are females. In percentage terms, this represents three percent of the total population of inmates in correctional centers which currently averages 22,518. Out of 22,518, 596 are females while 21,922 are males. The pardoning of the 579 inmates will greatly help to increase the social distancing in our correctional centres to prevent the spread of covid-19 in correctional centres.”

Banda further said the Zambia Correctional Service Bill would strengthen the operations of the Service.

“The Zambia Correctional Service has embraced the penal reforms through the paradigm shift of the correctional system. In this regard, the government introduced the Zambia correctional service bill to give effect to the provisions of the constitution which required the enactment of consequential legislation. The bill was also aimed at domesticating the United Nations Standard minimum rules for treatment of prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela rules),” Banda stated.

“The enactment of the Zambia Correctional Service bill will strengthen the operations of the Zambia Correctional Service and give effect to the paradigm shift from being a punitive institution to a correctional one, as espoused in the constitution. It will also truly reflect the aspirations of the government in the observation of human rights, treatment, rehabilitation and reformation of offenders in line with the UNMSR including other international statutes regarding the treatment of persons in lawful custody, besides other rights that are enshrined in the constitution and the right to vote.”

He commended President Lungu for improving the welfare of inmates and that of the Zambia Correctional Service staff.

“Allow me to pay special tribute to his Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, president of the Republic of Zambia, for taking up practical steps towards uplifting the welfare of inmates and correctional officers in the Republic of Zambia. You will all agree with me that the developments that have taken place in the Zambia Correctional Service within 10 years the PF government has been in power is unprecedented in the history of this nation,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the above mentioned strides made to improve the welfare of inmates, government has also improved the welfare of staff through the appointment of the Zambia Correctional Service Commission (ZCSC) by His Excellency, to address human resource matters, harmonisation of salaries ,procurement of vehicles to ease transport challenges , uniforms, construction of better housing units which are distributed as follows; 246 Mukobeko Correctional camp in Kabwe, 67 houses at Kamfinsa in Kitwe, 170 at Mwembeshi, Chilanga district, 30 at Kitumba open air correctional farm in mumbwa, 70 at Monze correctional centre 28 at mumbwa correctional centre, 49 at Serenje correctional centre, etc.”

Meanwhile, Banda called on families of the former inmates to be supportive.

“However, we must all know that, successful reintegration of former inmates is largely dependent on the support of members of the immediate families and communities of the former inmates. We therefore 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. This is essential to give the pardoned a second chance to find their feet as law-abiding citizens,” stated Banda.