Zimbabwe government has begun releasing prisoners amid concerns of overcrowding and coronavirus pandemic. About 3,000 prisoners have been released under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.
Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity of 17,000 prisoners but held about 22,000 before the amnesty declared by president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.
Those to be released had been convicted of non-violent crimes. All females imprisoned for non-violent crimes and who served a third of their sentences are to be released, and all disabled persons convicted of non-violent crimes. Africa centers for disease control and prevention data show, Zimbabwe has recorded 37,534 cases of covid-19, including 1,551 deaths.
Authorities say, those convicted of crimes such as murder, treason, human trafficking, and sexual offenses will not benefit.
President Mnangagwa also commuted death sentences to life sentences for many prisoners on death row. Zimbabwe still has the death penalty but has not hanged anyone in years.
Authorities have suspended visits to prisons while plans are made to vaccinate inmates as part of measures to combat the spread of the virus. Political activists who have been sent to prison as part of a government crackdown on dissent have spoken of dire conditions, which they said put inmates at risk of both starvation and disease outbreak.
In another response to the pandemic, Zimbabwe has canceled the independence day celebrations planned for April 18 to combat the spread of COVID-19.
White People And Dogs ‘Rescued First’ In Mozambique – Amnesty
Amnesty International has alleged that rescuers in Mozambique gave priority to white people in an evacuation during an attack by jihadists in March.
The human rights body citing survivors’ accounts said two dogs were also airlifted to safety, leaving people behind in a hotel where they had sought refuge.
Amnesty International’s regional director Deprose Muchena said “these are alarming allegations that the rescue plan was racially segregated, with white contractors obviously receiving preferential treatment.”
One survivor told the rights group “we were about 220 people trapped there in the hotel – we [local black people] were the majority, and the whites were supposed to be about 20. After the rescue and escape, we were about 170 people still alive. Most of the whites were rescued by helicopters, before we left the hotel by car.”
According to BBC report, Amnesty said it spoke to 11 survivors out of the 220 who had been in the hotel, including five who survived an attack as they attempted to flee.
Muchena said “abandoning people during an armed assault simply because of the colour of their skin is racism, and violates the obligation to protect civilians. This cannot go unanswered.”
Meanwhile, the private company which was involved in the rescue operation, Dyck Advisory Group told the AFP news agency that it would issue a statement later but emphasized that the allegations were “not at all accurate.”
Zambia Dissolves Parliament Ahead Of Elections
As Zambians prepare to head to the polls on August 21, the country’s parliament has been dissolved exactly 90 days before the upcoming general election as required by the constitution.
On Wednesday, the house held its last sitting and the clerk announced that it would formally dissolve on Friday.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu is seeking re-election and has in the past assured international partners of a free and fair election.
Ahead of the elections, the United Kingdom has contributed £500,000 ($703,000) to a democracy programme managed by the United Nations Development Programme.
It will support a democratic election while ensuring legitimacy and fairness during the electoral process.
Kenyan Court Slams Brakes On President’s Constitutional Changes
A Kenya high court has annulled a plan to amend the nation`s constitution and ruled that president Uhuru Kenyatta had violated the constitution by initiating a process which ought to be driven by the ordinary citizen.
The government-sponsored constitution amendment bill, popularly referred to as the building bridges initiative, would have expanded the executive and parliament.
The court declared the bill was irregular, illegal and unconstitutional.
The five-judge bench unanimously declared that the president had failed the leadership and integrity test and that the constitution amendment process was illegal.
The proposed changes under the bill reintroduced the office of the prime minister, the creation of 70 new constituencies, and an affirmative action clause that could have created at least 300 new unelected MPs.
President Kenyatta and Odinga, who have been pushing for the reforms, say the proposed constitutional changes will end the winner-take-all structure of current Kenyan politics, which is often followed by deadly violence.
Critics have said the bbi is a selfish initiative to reward political dynasties, and that it will lead to a bloated parliament and executive which Kenya – a country already burdened by debt – cannot afford.
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