JB pardons 377 prisoners to celebrate Malawi independence

Overpopulation in Malawi’s prisons is set to ease a bit after President Joyce Banda has pardoned 377 prisoners.

Banda granted the amnesty on Friday, July 6, as part of commemorations marking 48 years of independence from Great Britain.

“With powers vested upon me I have pardoned 377 prisoners,” President Banda announced the amnesty at the special prayers marking the Independence Day.

Powerful women inthe history of Malawi, from left is Mama Cecilia Kadzamila, Vera Chirwa, Rose Chibambo Her Excellency Joyce Banda

Banda said her clemency excludes criminals facing serious charges including rape or any sexual offenses on young girls, carjacking, armed robbery and murder.

“I have rejected 11 others on the list on grounds that they were involved in defilement cases,” she said.

“One of them has serious liver problem but we will bury him if need be because he knowingly doomed the future of young girl whom he raped repeatedly,” Banda who champions young girls education, said.

Most of the inmates released had “served at least half of their prison sentences with good behaviour and were not convicted of serious crimes,” the home affairs ministry said in a statement.

Malawi’s 23 prisons hold 12 000 inmates – double their capacity.

A recent study commissioned by the Malawi Prison Services and funded by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),  identified congestion and general poor sanitation as some of the factors leading to the high rate of contagious diseases.

The study also revealed a high HIV prevalence of up to 40 percent which was partly attributed to homosexuality.

The report  which was presented by Dr Geoffrey Chipungu from College of Medicine at an advocacy workshop in Blantyre  on June 28, for example, says the prevalence HIV among male inmates is 40.6 percent in central prisons, 22.9 percent in medium size prisons whereas small size prisons have 19.1 percent.

No July 6 pomp

There are no parties to celebrate the Independence Day because Malawi is broke after former president Bingu wa Mutharika led the worst economic crisis following donor withdraw due to governance and rights concerns.

Banda told the national prayer meeting that “there is no money for celebrations” as the country was recovering from the suspension of vital foreign aid funds.

Later in the afternoon, there was a football match between Malawi and Zambia as part of the independence celebrations at the Kamuzu Stadium, which Malawi emerge 1-0 winners.

President Joyce Banda being welcomed by the clergy at the interdenomination prayers marking 48 years of Malawi independence.Photo by Govati Nyirenda/Mana

Traditional leaders at the prayers marking Malawi’ 48 years of independence in Blantyre. Photo by Govati Nyirenda/Mana

Powerful women inthe history of Malawi, from left is Mama Cecilia Kadzamila, Vera Chirwa, Rose Chibambo Her Excellency Joyce Banda and First Gentleman.Photo by Govati Nyirenda/Mana

Members of the opposition party greets president Joyce Banda at the independence prayers in Blantyre.Photo by Govati Nyirenda/Mana

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