Calls by Amnesty International for Zimbabwe to scrap the death penalty in line with international justice standards could not have come at a better time, as this legislation is now archaic.
Capital punishment is provided for by Section 12 of the Zimbabwe Constitution which states:
“It shall be lawful for a person to be killed following a death sentence imposed on him/her by a court.”
The death penalty was originally instituted in the pre-civilisation era among primitive societies during which laws were handed down orally and applied in a subjective and arbitrary way by chiefs.
It was applied mainly to crimes such as high treason and sacrilege to set an example.
In limited instances it was applied to murder cases.
Babylonians, ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans also applied the death penalty.
From the Middle Ages to the present, the death penalty was also used by some dictatorial governments to get rid of political opponents.
Historical examples include Russia during the Lenin and Stalin era and Germany during Nazism.
Capital punishment was also used in South Africa during apartheid, and for reasons of ideological and racial cleansing.
Sadly, in many states across the globe today, the primitive law is still being applied.
In line with increased civilisation since the primitive ages, the death penalty must be abolished.
We believe that the state has the right to sentence those who murder others.
But at the same time we believe statutorily taking life is playing God.
The most critical question is:
what if the judge errs or the accused failed to adequately provide evidence to defend himself/herself?
Think of it for a moment.
Wouldn’t one be correct to say the death penalty is a controversial sentence?
Our intention here is not to start a debate to expose the follies and vices of the system.
We can’t run away from the fact that this harsh law is of no benefit to anyone, be it the murderer, the slain and his/her relatives or society at large.
Killing the murderer will not bring back the victim.
If that is so, wouldn’t it be better if the justice system gives a convict the opportunity to reform and become a responsible member of society?
The current constitutional debate in Zimbabwe presents a golden opportunity for the country to correct this.
A number of African countries, including Burundi, Djibouti and Rwanda, have also removed this law.
Zimbabwe now stands alone after her neighbours, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique, also decided to go the civilised way by abolishing the death penalty.
The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has repeatedly called on African Union member states to abolish the death penalty.
It is time that we heeded it and joined the club of civilised nations.
In fact, it sends the message that we are a backward nation that is yet to value the sacrosanct nature of human life.