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Op-Ed

Presidential Pardon or Parole?

By Dickson Jere
There is a world of difference between a prisoner being released on Presidential Pardon and Parole. Let me break it down simply as follows;

In 1994, prominent lawyer Edward Jack Shamwana, announced his candidature to contest the Mumbwa parliamentary by-election, few years after he was pardoned for treason by President Kenneth Kaunda. But another lawyer-cum-politician, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa attacked his colleague and called him an ex-convict. Shamwana sued Mwanawasa for defamation of character in the Lusaka High Court.

In that case, the court explained the meaning of a presidential “absolute and unconditional pardon” – it simply erases the conviction completely! Your record is discarded as if you never committed the offence and the rights and privileges that you enjoyed are installed. Unless – off course – if the release was conditional. (See Edward Jack Shamwana v Levy Patrick Mwanawasa – 1994/SJ/93).

On the other hand, a release on parole is governed by the Prisons Act, Volume 7 of Chapter 97 of the Laws of Zambia and in particular Statutory Instrument No. 101 of 2008. In there, it empowers prison authorities to place certain prisoners on parole for good behavior (among other things) and be released to serve the remainder of their prison term outside jail. In this scenario, the conviction remains!

And the President does not get involved in making that pardon like in the earlier example given. Parole is used as part of the system of decongesting prisons for good mannered prisoners – this is why the name was changed to “correctional services” as opposed to prison. The aim is to reform.

Whether parole and presidential pardon should be available for murder convicts is subject for another discussion suffice to say that Shamwana (and others) who were treason-convicts and on the death row benefited from the presidential pardon!

So, parole is done by the National Parole Board under the Prisons Act while Presidential pardon is done by the Head of State under the Constitution of Zambia with advice from the Prerogative of Mercy Committee.

 

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