Honour Right To Life, Abolish Death Sentence: Legal Experts

Legal experts and anti-death penalty proponents say the provisions of the constitution on the death sentence are in violation of the right to life.

More than a year after Zimbabweans resoundingly voted for the adoption of the new constitution, the issue of the death sentence as provided for in the constitution has been a contentious matter with anti-death penalty proponents and legal experts describing it as discriminatory and selective.

Participants who took part in a discussion forum under the title: Death on Death Row – When will Zimbabwe Honour the Right to Life?’ said the selective upholding of the death sentence is unnecessary and inhuman.

“The ministry responsible should take steps to regularise the situation. This is unnecessary and the people can do a away with it,” said Professor Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law expert.

“The conditions one is subjected to while on death row is enough punishment, it is death on its own,” said Sara Moyo, a legal expert.

“We say we celebrate the victory of women and those over 70 but what about the sanctity of life? Is an eye for an eye the remedy?” Charles Kwaramba from Amnesty International asked.

“This is an inhuman and cruel law and it kills the inmate before execution….it is not necessary,” said Professor Geoff Feltoe, a criminal law expert.

Section 48 of the constitution stipulates that everyone has a right to life, but adds that “a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed in aggravated murder.

However, the same section also restricts the circumstances under which the death penalty may be imposed. 

Currently, 97 inmates are on the death row after being convicted of various offences, but no execution has taken place since 2005 when armed robbers and convicted murderers Edgar Masendeke and Stephen Chidhumo were hanged.