Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Monday said he had pardoned more than 5,000 prisoners.
He made the disclosure during the celebration of Tanzania’s 58th anniversary of independence.
Magufuli said the gesture was meant to tackle the congestion in prisons in Tanzania.
“Some of these prisoners have been jailed over minor offences: stealing chickens, insulting his friend, having an argument with a lover,” the president said.
Magufuli added that “some were detained because they lacked lawyers to defend them well in their cases, while others for a failure to pay fines.”
As part of the pardon from the President, 5,533 prisoners are to be released starting on Tuesday.
It will be the highest number of prisoners to be released and that forms a significant portion of the Tanzanian prison population.
The Tanzanian presidency said that prisoners jailed for a year and those with only one year left on their sentence will benefit from this latest release.
Change of stance?
In 2018, President Magufuli however said he wanted prisoners in his country to live in harsher conditions.
President of Tanzania, John Magufuli wants prisoners in his country to live in harsher conditions.
He was reported to have said that wanted inmates to work “day and night” and be prevented from benefiting from conjugal visits.
The Tanzanian President while making that comment also called for all lazy prisoners to be “kicked”.
“It is a shame for the country to continue to feed prisoners. All the prisons have fields, inmates must cultivate them,” Magufuli was quoted as saying then.
Magufuli wonders why prison staff allowed prisoners to receive conjugal visits.
“A man is in prison, leaving his wife outside, and a prison official receives this woman and authorises the prisoner to do things he is not supposed to do during his detention. I don’t want to hear talk of that anymore,” he said.
35,803 persons are in Tanzania’s prison facilities but more than half of those are still waiting to go on trial, according to the government.