Zimbabwe will release at least 5,000 prisoners to curb food shortages at correctional facilities as the southern Africa country struggles with a collapsing economy.
The move is meant to decongest prisons that have 22,000 inmates against a carrying capacity of 17,000, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said.
“Cabinet considered and approved a proposal to have a general amnesty for prisoners,” Ms Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare.
“The general amnesty, which will be for certain specified categories of prisoners, will certainly decongest the country’s prisons and alleviate challenges being experienced by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.”
Two years ago, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pardoned 3,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding.
The pardon benefited female prisoners except those sentenced to death or facing life sentences.
All juveniles and people jailed for less than 36 months were also released.
Zimbabwe’s overcrowded prisons are struggling to feed inmates and buy them uniforms due to poor funding by the government.
Prisoners in remand often skip appearances due to fuel shortages.
Last year legislators that undertook a fact-finding mission at the country’s largest prison, Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, were told that the facility had erratic water supply and that inmates lacked adequate food, clothing and bedding.
The country has been experiencing acute shortages of foreign currency, fuel and medicines due to an economic crisis.
Aid agencies say at least eight million Zimbabweans, which is half the country’s population, face starvation due to drought.