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Immigration holds ‘mercenaries’

Gift Phiri

SIXTY-TWO “mercenaries” jailed on charges of flouting immigration laws we expected to be released late yesterday but the Immigration department is understood to have issued a detention

warrant for the Zimbabwe Prison Services to keep the group while they process their travel documents, the Zimbabwe Independent heard yesterday.

Zimbabwe Prison Services public relations officer Superintendent Gibson Mapokotera could not comment on the release of the prisoners but sources at Chikurubi Maximum Prison confirmed late yesterday that the men were still in prison awaiting their deportation.

The High Court on Wednesday reduced by four months the sentences of the group after an appeal lodged in the High Court late last year. Judge Yunus Omerjee gave no reasons when he handed down his ruling.

Jonathan Samkange, the lawyer representing the group, told the Independent in a telephone interview from Namibia yesterday that his clients were supposed to be released immediately. He said his clients were initially serving a one-year term which had been reduced to eight months.

“But they qualify for a one-third remission of sentence provided for well-behaved prisoners under Zimbabwean laws,” Samkange said.

“Coupled with this reduction, all the men — except the two pilots who received longer jail terms — should be released immediately.”

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa professed ignorance of the release of the prisoners saying: “I do not keep track of who is being released.”

Efforts to obtain comment from Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi were also fruitless as his mobile went unanswered.

South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Jeremiah Ndou told Reuter last night that immigration officials were processing the men’s papers.

“If the papers are ready they will be ready to go,” Ndou said. “Their lawyers are here and they are working out how they will be taken home.”

Prison sources told the Independent that the men would be freed into the custody of Zimbabwe’s Immigration department for immediate deportation to South Africa since they had been declared illegal immigrants.

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