Joshua Zirebwa, who was convicted of a series of robberies in Bulawayo and is currently serving his sentence at Khami Prison, has spent the past 18 years reflecting on his actions and undergoing transformative experiences through the rehabilitation programs provided by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.
Zirebwa’s crimes included carjacking, armed robbery, and plain robbery, resulting in a lengthy sentence due to the multiple charges against him. As time passes, he becomes increasingly disheartened, seeing other inmates granted amnesty, even those on death row for murder. Unfortunately, his offence does not fall under the amnesty category, leaving him with the prospect of serving his entire 52-year sentence. Zirebwa believes the authorities should reconsider this situation.
“I committed these offences when I was 22 years-old. I did not kill anyone but due to the numerous counts that I had, I was sentenced to 52 years in prison. I have served 18 years, but what pains me is that when amnesty comes, our category is left out. Our prison officers know our behaviour for the past 18 years but they do not have the power to recommend me for amnesty. I have seen murderers coming to prison with death sentences, and after 10 years being put to life and five years on benefitting from amnesty. But as for me, I have to serve 52 years which means I will come out at the age of 74. If you come here after 10 years, you will find me here, but I have been rehabilitated for more than a decade. We plead with Government to consider that,” expressed Zirebwa.
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Inmates at the Khami Prison Complex, located on the outskirts of Bulawayo, also implore lawmakers to create legislation that ensures their full reintegration into society without the stigma of being labelled as “ex-convicts.” Their plea gained momentum when they had the opportunity to meet a high-level delegation led by Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Advocate Nobert Mazungunye. The delegation, including Permanent Secretary Mrs Vimbai Nyemba, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu, and other senior officials, visited the prison to assess the state of the country’s correctional facilities.
The tour concluded at Khami Maximum Prison, where inmates had the chance to engage with the officials and express their concerns. The Khami Maximum Prison Imbube dance ensemble warmly welcomed the delegation and conveyed their plea through song and dance.
“We want to welcome you to Khami Maximum Prison, rehabilitation centre. We want to plead with our legislators who were voted into Parliament in order for them to advocate for peace and our well-being. To advocate for our rights as prisoners.
“Our Constitution, Section 56 (1) one says all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.
“Every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability or economic or social status, or whether they were born in or out of wedlock,” the group sang passionately.
The plea of the inmates underscores the need for comprehensive prison reforms that address the issue of amnesty eligibility and the successful reintegration of former prisoners into society.