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Zimbabwe Frees Thousands of Prisoners Under Amnesty Plan

FILE - Female prisoners wait for their turn to walk out of prison following their release at Chikurubi Maximum prison on the outskirts of Harare, Feb. 17, 2014.

Zimbabwe has freed 2,000 inmates as the country's prison system struggles with massive overcrowding and food shortages.

The notice of the pardon was announced earlier this week by President Robert Mugabe.

It was extended to all male prisoners under the age of 18 and all female inmates, with the exception of two serving life sentences.

It included terminally-ill prisoners and some male inmates with sentences of under three years who had served a majority of their time.

Prisoners convicted of murder, armed robbery, treason, rape or carjacking were not eligible for early release.

"Our 46 prisons nationwide are overpopulated," Priscilla Mthembo, an official with Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional service told the Herald newspaper.

"We have a holding capacity of 17,000, but we have been holding over 19,900 prisoners," she said, adding that the pardon will go a long way in helping to provide better conditions for the inmates that remain incarcerated.