By Professor Matodzi
Harare, October 10, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for the total abolition of the death penalty as it emerged that 89 people are on the death row in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa told anti-death activists marking World Day Against the Death Penalty in the capital Thursday that capital punishment must be completely abolished from the country’s statutes as it is inhuman and degrading.
“As someone who has been on the death row myself and only saved by an “age” technicality, I believe that our justice delivery system must rid itself of this ‘odious and obnoxious” provision. The mental torture occasioned by the mere knowledge that “it is all over” coupled with the experience of being treated as the “scum” of society, bring with them utter hopelessness and despair,” said Mnangagwa, who officiated as the guest speaker at commemorations jointly organised by Amnesty International, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the Women’s Coalition, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender.
Zimbabwe’s new constitution endorsed by the country’s two main political parties early this year exempts women, men under 21 and those over 70 from the death penalty. The new governance charter also prohibits the mandatory imposition of the death penalty for certain crimes.
Mnangagwa disclosed that 89 people are on the death row consisting of 87 men and two women having been convicted of murder with actual intent or murder in the course of robbery where no extenuating circumstances existed.
Zimbabwe last carried out executions in 2004 for convicted criminals who had committed serious crimes of murder, rape and armed robbery while hangman post fell vacant in 2005 following the retirement of the executor. However, the post has since been filled, a move which Mnangagwa said does not signify a “step backwards but a fulfillment of the legal requirements.”
The Zanu PF politburo member said the abolition of the death penalty will be a process and not an event.
Cousin Zilala, the Amnesty International Zimbabwe executive director echoed Mnangagwa’s sentiments saying the death penalty should be abolished completely.