President Edgar Lungu has pardoned an additional 249 inmates as part of the commemoration of the Africa Freedom Day.
The measure has also been taken to decongest correctional facilities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Announcing a development at a media briefing in Lusaka today, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo said the action is in accordance with Article 97 of the Zambian Constitution.
Mr Kampyongo said this Constitution provision provides for Presidential Pardon and Substitution of Severe Punishments imposed on the convicted persons.
He explained that among the pardoned, 238 are males while 11 are females.
Mr. Kampyongo said this action brings the cumulative number of pardoned inmates 3,242 by the President in commemorating the 2020 Africa Freedom Day.
He said this has also reduced the inmate population in Zambia 19,000 as at 27th May, 2020 and that no COVID-19 case has been recorded in Zambia since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Earlier, President Lungu pardoned two men who were jailed last year for having sex with each other. President Lungu extended the Prerogative of Mercy to two men of Kapiri Mposhi who were jailed last year in November for practicing homosexuality.
According to a Government Gazette obtained in which names of the over 2,900 prisoners pardoned by President Lungu to commemorate Africa Freedom Day have been printed, Japhet Chataba and Stephen Sambo’s names featured in the Gazette.
The two men have since only served six months in jail and have acquired their freedom through the President’s Constitutional powers.
Their 15-year sentence triggered a diplomatic row, which ended in the recalling of the US ambassador Daniel Foote.
Last November, the Lusaka High Court sentenced the two men for having sex “against the order of nature”.
They had booked into a lodge, and a worker peeped through an open window and saw them having sex, the court heard.
At the time, Mr. Foote said he was “horrified” by the sentencing.
Mr. Foote implored the Zambian government to review the case and its homosexuality laws, but then faced a backlash for his comments.
The government felt that the ambassador was trying to use the aid money that the US gives as leverage.
In response the diplomat’s comments, President Lungu then said that he did not “want such people in our midst. We want him gone as he was undesired element in society”.
Mr Foote was recalled to Washington in December.