The decision by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to pardon thousands of prisoners, including convicted rapists, has sparked widespread outrage and condemnation. This presidential amnesty, announced last week, saw the release of 4,279 inmates – 4,166 men and 104 women, from all of Zimbabwe’s 47 correctional facilities. Footage of released convicts celebrating their freedom, and the shocking disclosure that some of them served less than a year of their initial sentencing, has gone viral, heightening public distress and consternation.
Numerous Zimbabwean citizens are demanding that this controversial decision be overturned, pointing out the heightened risk it poses to women’s safety. As a stark example, one of the pardoned men openly admitted to being convicted for raping a nine-year-old girl. These concerns are not just about the emotional impact or individual opinions, but fundamentally about the adherence to law and justice.
Fadzayi Mahere, the spokesperson for the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), contends that the release of these unrehabilitated rapists is a flagrant violation of the law. “The reintroduction of unreformed rapists into communities where they perpetrated these heinous crimes goes far beyond the scope of the amnesty instrument. It represents an act of gross negligence and irrationality that must be unequivocally condemned by all progressive voices who value the safety of women and girls. This isn’t a matter of emotion or personal sentiment – it is, above all, a matter of law. The amnesty instrument does not authorize the release of rapists, irrespective of their age. At the very least, we must uphold the law!” Mahere asserts.
Additionally, Hopewell Chin’ono, a filmmaker and vocal critic of the government, views this decision as a clear sign that the safety of Zimbabwean women is not a priority for the current regime. “President Emmerson Mnangagwa has recently granted amnesty to individuals guilty of one of the most atrocious and abhorrent crimes – rape. In nations governed by the rule of law, amnesty is never extended to rapists or individuals who have committed violent crimes. Under this regime, the safety of women is at stake!” Chin’ono states.
The public outcry extends beyond the borders of Zimbabwe. Brighton Mrewa, an overseas observer, insists that the onus rests with the Zanu PF party and President Mnangagwa and urges them to reconsider and reverse this troubling decision.
Taona Denhere highlights the comparison to countries such as the UK or the USA, where rapists can be eligible for parole but must have served at least more than half of their sentence to qualify and must show evidence of good behavior. “Furthermore, these governments enforce measures such as electronic monitoring tags, mandatory check-ins with probation services every two weeks, and strictly prohibit the released convicts from returning to the communities where they committed their crimes. They are also forbidden from contacting their victims, and their names are added to a sex offenders register. Upon release, they are subject to licensing conditions, including the obligation to report to a probation officer,” Denhere explains.
The ongoing controversy over the release of convicted rapists underscores the urgent need for due process and law enforcement reforms in Zimbabwe to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens.