President Edgar Lungu has pardoned five hundred and ninety-three correctional service inmates based in various correctional facilities throughout the country.
Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo told a media briefing in Shiwangandu District of Muchinga Province today, that the pardoned inmates consist of convicts serving both short and long-term sentences.
He says short-term inmates sentences range from six months to five years while the long-term sentences are more than five years and could be as long as thirty-five years.
The Minister says of the five hundred and ninety-three released inmates 43 are female who were serving short-term sentences while 532 are male.
President Edgar ChagwaLungu should consider invoking the provisions of art. 97 of the constitution of Zambia on the Prerogative of Mercy on Journalist Derrick Sinjela and civic activist, Gregory Cifire.
The two were convicted of contempt of the Supreme Court ensuing their comments on the Savenda Management Services Vs. Stanbic Bank (Z) case disposed of by the same court and sentenced the duo to 18 months and six years imprisonment respectively.
In this case, the media houses and concerned citizens and organisations should consider petitioning the President to consider the plight of this journalist, Derrick and activist Gregory, whose only crimes were to express their opinions on the judgement.
And for Sinjela, since he admitted that his opinion was wrong on the matter and respected the court by not absconding it’s hearing till the day of the judgement and further admitted that he erred and the court could not exercise leniency by giving him a non-custodial sentence but instead gave him 18 months custodial sentence, it is important that president Lungu, who has been a proponent of media freedoms in Zambia, considers invoking art 97 on Derrick Sinjela and also extend the same to Gregory who is now living in self-exile.
Gregory’s plight must also be considered seriously by the President as it deprives him (Gregory) his right and freedom to effective participation in national affairs and processes when in exile.
As per guidance from the Constitution, the president only pardons or reduces a sentence for, the victims when they are convicted and serving a sentence which both are doing currently.
It is for and in this understanding that President Lungu is requested to pardon Derrick Sinjela and Gregory Cifire esp that in the recent past, the office of the President did not only exercise this function on a journalist like late Chanda Chimba III but also on some prominent persons such as Stephen Masumba, Dr George Mpombo, and former Chisamba MP, Moses Muteteka among others convicted of various serious offences against the state ranging from forgery of academic qualifications to abuse of Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
It will be gratifying to see the president act expeditiously on this request as it will come as Christmas or indeed New Year Gift to the media and NGO fraternity.