File picture: Pexels

Harare - Zimbabwe's prisons are overcrowded and are currently accommodating 19 500 inmates, above a carrying capacity of 17 000, a cabinet minister said Wednesday. 

The government, however, said it is not considering any amnesty to de-congest the correctional facilities, the state news agency New Ziana reported. 

Early last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pardoned at least 3 000 prisoners under a presidential amnesty in an effort to reduce the prison population. 

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the government has since realised that official pardons do not help in reducing prison population. 

"We gave an amnesty early last year but within a month we had almost the same population (as before the amnesty)," he told legislators in the National Assembly. "So we realised that (giving pardons) is not the solution." 

Instead, Ziyambi said the government would prioritise investments in new prison facilities across the country. 

He said plans were in place to build a female open prison in Marondera and also to expand the existing Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare. 

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) currently operates 46 correctional facilities throughout the country. Ziyambi said due to economic hardships, the prison services was facing operational challenges and called for support to the ZPCS in various forms. 

"If you want to donate to our prisons you are most welcome, what you need to do is to write to the Commissioner of Prisons detailing the nature of your donations," he said. 

Xinhua