Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has appealed to President Lazarus Chakwera to pardon prisoners with minor offenses and those that have exhibited good behaviour to decongest overcrowded prisons in the country as a way of reducing COVID-19 infections.
Nankhumwa has said he is well aware that the President has pardoned many prisoners before, including those diagnosed with COVID-19, in order to reduce infection rates but he said the President should consider raising the figure of pardoned prisoners amid fears of COVID-19 second wave.
“There are reports that countries like Kenya now have to grapple with serious COVID-19 second wave. We therefore have to take all necessary steps to avoid going through similar experience. This must include decongesting our prisons,” he told reporters.
Nankhumwa was speaking in Zomba on Friday, December 4, 2020 when he made a donation of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) to Zomba Prison. The donation included face masks and water buckets.
According to Nankhumwa, the donation was a fulfilment of a pledge he made at the start of the week when he led a delegation of members of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 during visits various public and private establishments, including Zomba Prison, to assess how they are coping with the pandemic.
Nankhumwa informed the Zomba Prison authorities that he had made the donation in his personal capacity.
He said with over congestion in prison facilities, it is obviously difficult to enforce COVID-19 measures, especially when it comes to social distancing.
“I am aware that there are many prisoners who are serving time for committing petty crimes; some have over the time exhibited good behaviour. Others are still in prison because they were not able to pay bail bonds, some as low as K10, 000. Let the President consider such prisoners for pardon during the festive season to avert COVID-19 disaster in our prisons,” he said.
Receiving the donation, Zomba Prison Chief Medical Officer, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Prisons, Dr. Lawrence Chiwaula, and Station Officer, Assistant Commissioner Thom Mtute thanked the Leader of the Opposition for “the rare gesture”.
MP for Zomba Central Bester Awali lauded Nankhumwa for his “exemplary leadership”, encouraging him to do the same with other prisons.