Zimbabwe's Death Penalty Under Scrutiny

According to the state-owned Herald, Shepherd Mazango, sentenced to death in terms of Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, has taken his challenge to the Supreme Court. He has described hanging as “horrendous, barbaric, inhuman, brutal and uncivilised”.

“God knows when I am going to be executed. I am anxious about this everyday. It is traumatising,” he said.

Through his lawyer, Mr Innocent Maja of Maja and Associates — under instruction from International Bridges to Justice — Mazango, argues that the imposition of the death penalty offends provisions of Zimbabwe’s Constitution.

“Punishment should be humane and should accord with human rights standards. I still hold rights irrespective of the fact that I have been convicted of murder.

“The cruelty of the death penalty is also shown by the mere fact that it does not only rob me of the right to life but has the effect of robbing me all other rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” he argued.

Mazango says the last execution was carried out in 2004 and there are 50 inmates on death row, some of whom have been there for 13 years.

“Among us are George Manyonga who has spent 13 years awaiting execution, James Dube and Bright Gwashinga who have spent 10 and five years respectively, awaiting execution.

“This has caused severe trauma on the inmates that some of them are losing their mind…

“Worse still, to think that I can spend 13 years before execution like my colleague George Manyonga crushes me,” he further argued.

Mazango said the cells were small, dirty, and had poor ventilation.

“The few blankets that are there are tattered and I am usually cold the whole night. There is no toilet in the cell.

“I use a five-litre container that is kept in my room the whole day and night.

“I am in solitary confinement for 23 hours. I am not allowed any entertainment and I am not allowed to read anything in the cell, even a newspaper.

“I am out of touch with the world so much so that I do not know what day it is, what time it is and what is happening on the outside world.

“I am advised that there were amendments to the Constitution that were made in 1990 and 1993 with the effect that a death sentence cannot be suspended only by virtue of it contravening Section 15 of the Constitution.

“These amendments should be struck off the Constitution on the basis that they have the effect of taking away the right not to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment.

“The amendments fly in the face of the essential features doctrine,” he argued.

He also claims that he was convicted of murder because he could not afford a lawyer and gave statements without appreciating the essential elements of the crime.

“I verily believe that the imposition of the death penalty is an arbitrary deprivation of life in contravention of Section 12 of the Zimbabwean Constitution.

“Life is sacrosanct and should not be taken away even when a person is convicted of murder. “The ‘justice’ of ‘an eye for an eye and ‘a tooth for a tooth’ is not acceptable in a democratic society and offends human rights as shown above.

“On the premises of the above, I believe that I have set out a case for the relief sought. Accordingly, I humbly pray for an order in terms of the draft,” said Mazango.

The State is cited as the respondent.

Mazango was convicted of murder with actual intent for killing a Marondera farmer.

Facts are that on September 6, 2002, Mazango and his two accomplices, met the unsuspecting farmer at a service station and told him that they were selling affordable fertilizer.

The victim became interested and they made him drive to Karimazondo Farm.

They ordered him to park his vehicle and led him into a bush where he was supposed to see the fertilizer, while Mazango walked behind him.

“I picked up a log. I used it to strike him on the head and he fell on the ground.

“I continued assaulting him with the same log till it broke. I then picked some stones, which I used to strike him on the head.

“I took his Z$3 000, shoes, trousers and vehicle keys and went home,” Mazango told the court during trial.