By FARAI MUTSAKA*
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s new president is commuting death sentences for some prisoners and releasing thousands of people from prison, including most women and everyone under age 18.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement Wednesday is an effort to ease overcrowded prisons. He has said he is against the death penalty because he once survived hanging when the southern African nation was still colonial Rhodesia.
Nearly 100 people are on death row in the country of 13 million. Those on it for at least a decade are having their sentences commuted to life in prison.
Zimbabwe’s last execution was in 2005, partly because no one was willing to be the hangman.
All women except those serving life sentences are being freed. Also freed are prisoners who are disabled or terminally ill and those sentenced to life before Feb. 28, 1998.
About 3,000 prisoners are expected to benefit, said prison deputy commissioner-general Alford Mashango Dube. He said the current prison population is about 20,000 and capacity is 17,000.
Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe in November said he was considering resuming executions. But weeks later Mnangagwa took power with the military’s assistance after factional fighting within the ruling party.