THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is greatly concerned by government’s decision to release some inmates, who include convicted sexual offenders, from the country’s prisons under a presidential amnesty declared recently by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On May 12, 2023, Mnangagwa gazetted Clemency Order No 1 of 2023, where he exercised his prerogative of mercy to release some offenders from jails located across the country in a move hailed by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services as aimed at reducing the prison population.
The Clemency Order gave amnesty to different categories of prisoners throughout Zimbabwe.
Section 12(d) of the Clemency Order provides that some prisoners were to be excluded from the proposed general amnesty, including any inmate convicted of committing any specified offence.
Section 13(c) of the Clemency Order provides that for the purpose of the amnesty: “specified offence” includes rape or any sexual offence.
However, in some sections of the same “Clemency Order”, Mnangagwa’s Clemency Order provided exceptions, where inmates convicted of crimes that include rape and sexual offences would be granted amnesty.
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Such exceptions included inmates aged 60 years old and above who would have effectively served one-tenth of their sentence to be released on amnesty.
ZLHR is shocked and disheartened that the release of sexual offenders significantly lowered the seriousness of sexual offences, considering that some of the sexual offenders were released having just served a tenth of their sentences.
Some of the sexual offenders being released after only serving prison terms of less than one year were quoted telling journalists during interviews that they had raped children as young as nine years old.
It is abhorrent that most of these inmates were released into the same communities where they committed the crimes and where their victims still reside.
These offenders have a high propensity to re-offend and the consequences will be catastrophic for individual victims, the victims’ families and the community.
ZLHR also notes that according to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, there has been an increase in domestic violence cases which has seen the law enforcement agency recording a spike in the number of murder cases throughout the country and yet authorities have the audacity to release dangerous offenders from prison.
While the Constitution provides that the President exercises the power of mercy under section 112, section 90(2)(c) of the Constitution provides among the duties of the President that he/she must ensure the protection of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rule of law.
Among the fundamental rights that the President must protect is that every child in Zimbabwe must be protected from economic and sexual exploitation or any form of abuse.
The Constitution also provides that the child’s best interests are paramount in every matter concerning the child.
The best interest of the child principle is also well articulated in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights.
Zimbabwe has voluntarily ratified these human rights instruments and has obligations to fully implement them.
The decision to release child rapists is an affront to the protection of the girl child and to the best interest of the child principle.
The powers of clemency vested in the President and government are not exercised in isolation, but are exercised with due regard to other duties imposed on the President by the Constitution, and these duties place an obligation on the President to protect fundamental human rights.
As such, releasing inmates convicted of child sexual offences contravenes the Constitution.
Over the years, ZLHR has been advocating for respect and protection of the rights of girls and women and has lauded the government for reforming laws on child marriages and consent.
However, all the progress made in advancing, protecting and safeguarding the rights of girls is eroded when decisions that seek to harm the girl child are made in haste without considering other constitutional imperatives.
In light of the current process to reform the law on sexual offences and calls to impose mandatory minimum sentence on rape, the decision to grant amnesty to sexual offenders is very retrogressive and an abomination.
Therefore, ZLHR calls upon Mnangagwa and government to carefully consider the decision to release child sexual offenders from prison, protect victims of rape and sexual assault and ensure that in matters relating to children, the best interests of the children concerned are always paramount.
Victims of rape and communities should be protected from perpetrators through offenders serving their full sentences.-ZLHR
Chamisa set to take over as opposition leader in Parly
I HAVE a feeling that Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa will take over as leader of the opposition in Parliament after losing the August 23 presidential election.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu PF party will use the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to force a win against Chamisa in the presidential race, a development which will lead to Chamisa heading the opposition in Parliament.
The title of leader of the opposition is a semi-official legislative position awarded to the head of the biggest opposition party or group in Parliament in nations that adapted the Western model of parliamentary governance.
The symbolism in the post is significant despite being primarily metaphorical.
Section 151 of the Constitution designates “the leader of the opposition in each House” (ie, the National Assembly and the Senate) as a member of the committee that oversees parliamentary procedures.
The leader of the opposition is a member of the business of the House Committee under Order 14 of the Standing Rules and Orders of the National Assembly.-Remson Mbute
Informal sector now integral to mainstream economy
INFORMAL trading as a profession has been in existence in Zimbabwe since the pre-independence era.
However, the number of informal traders has increased in recent years due to the continuous economic decline the country is experiencing.
As such, the emergence of the informal economy is controversial as its genesis can be traced back to the pre-independence period.
This is because the informal sector co-existed with the formal economy since time immemorial, though at a very small scale up to the early 1990s.
There is a belief which places the emergence of the informal sector to the colonial era when industries and other businesses were formalised.
Therefore, the informal sector encompassed other activities which were not formally recognised as integral components of the mainstream economy by the colonial administration.
Thus, during the colonial era, the informal sector comprised unregistered and unregulated entrepreneurs who chose to avoid registration and taxation.
Following the attainment of independence in 1980, the new government failed to create a developmental model that enhances and sustains development in rural areas as the case with South Korea and Singapore.
It is this policy development error that undermined employment creation and economic growth.
The policy error was more visible in the early 1990s, with the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) of 1990-95 being a case point.
This is largely because Esap led to the laying off of many workers from the private and public sectors.
The fast-track land reform programme also helped the growth of the informal sector. After the farm evasions, many people, whose livelihoods were agriculture-dependent, were left jobless.
The invasion of farms was worsened by the closure of industries at the emergence of the new millennium, which saw Zimbabwe’s relations with the West deteriorating.
This was a watershed event which led to the mass exodus of Zimbabweans to other countries while those who remained sought to survive in the informal economy.
It is imperative to note that the majority of those who went to the diaspora in search of greener pastures were men.
Reason being that the cultural configuration of the Zimbabwean society regards men as breadwinners and women as caregivers who are supposed to be at home looking after the family.
This emerged as a major dynamic that later influenced the gender structural configuration of the informal economy.
In addition, the mushrooming of women’s clubs in churches and communities was a significant stride in women taking over the informal economy.-Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development