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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa granted clemency to more than 4,000 prisoners, including some who were on death row, in an independence day amnesty on Thursday.

Zimbabwe marked 44 years of independence from white minority rule, which ended in 1980 after a bloody bush war. The country’s name was changed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.

The presidential amnesty, the second in less than a year, benefits female, older and juvenile inmates, the terminally ill and some who were originally sentenced to death.


Those once on death row but who had their sentences commuted to life terms in previous clemency orders or through court appeals are to be freed provided they have been in prison for at least 20 years, according to the clemency order, which was announced Wednesday and due to take effect on Thursday.

All female prisoners who had served at least a third of their sentence by independence day are being freed, as are juvenile inmates who have served the same period.

Zimbabwe clemency

Prisoners kneel at the entrance of Chikurubi Maximum prison before their release on the outskirts of the capital Harare, Thursday, April 18, 2024. Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has granted amnesty to more than 4,000 prisoners in an independence day amnesty. The amnesty coincided with the countrys 44th anniversary of independence from white minority rule on Thursday and included some prisoners who were on death row. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Prisoners age 60 and older who have served one tenth of their sentences will also be released. Mnangagwa also pardoned the blind and others with disabilities who have served a third of their sentence.

The prisoners are being released in batches across the country.

However, those jailed for “specified” offences that include sexual offences, robbery, public violence, unlawful possession of firearms, human trafficking and theft or vandalism of electricity and telecommunications infrastructure won’t benefit from the amnesty.

All death row prisoners who have been in jail for at least 10 years had their sentences commuted to life in prison under the amnesty.

Zimbabwe has more than 60 inmates on death row. It wasn’t immediately clear how many of those had their sentences commuted to life under the amnesty.

Zimbabwe is one of more than a dozen countries in Africa and more than 50 across the world that have the death penalty, although the country’s last hanging was in 2005. Mnangagwa says he supports abolishing the death penalty, a move which was backed by the Cabinet in February and is now awaiting approval from Parliament.


Mnangagwa freed more than 4,000 prisoners in another clemency order last May aimed at decongesting the southern African nation’s overcrowded prisons, where conditions are usually harsh. At the time, Zimbabwe had about 22,000 prisoners crammed into prisons with a capacity of 17,000.

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