Zim stands alone on death penalty

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Human rights organisations have called on government to scrap the death penalty from its statutes, arguing by upholding the “unjust and archaic legislation”, Zimbabwe was slowly alienating itself from the rest of the region.

Most Southern African countries have either abolished the death penalty or not executed anyone in recent years, save for Botswana which had one execution last year, according to an online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

Zimbabwe’s last hanging was carried out in 2003 although several convicts have reportedly been awaiting the gallows since then. The country has failed to carry out executions because there is no hangman.

Angola has not executed anyone since independence while the country abolished the death penalty in 1992. In Mozambique, the last execution was carried out in 1986 before the country abolished the death penalty in 1990.

Namibia scrapped it in 1990. In South Africa, the last execution was in 1989 while capital punishment was abolished in 1995.

Zambia’s last execution was in 1997. The last execution in Lesotho was in 1984 and Malawi last conducted capital punishment in 1992.

Madagascar’s last execution was done when the country was a French colony in 1958.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the country should take advantage of the constitution-making exercise to abolish capital punishment.
“The death penalty violates the right to life and is cruel, inhuman and degrading,” said Kumbirai Mafunda, the organisation’s spokesperson.

“The regional trend is that countries are moving away from the death penalty so we view the ongoing constitution-making exercise as an opportunity to relook at the death penalty.”

Jenni Williams, the director of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise, an organisation which fights for women’s rights, condemned the death sentence saying only God had the right to take life.

“Who are we to hold power over life and death? Who are we to play God? That is God’s place and no one else’s,” said Williams.

The Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender last week organised a campaign against capital punishment where a former death row prisoner, Elias Mpofu, highlighted the mental and physical trauma inmates go through while awaiting execution.

Defence minister Emerson Mnangagwa, who was spared the death sentence during the liberation war due to underage, has also voiced his concerns over the death penalty.

Former High Court judge Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe who presided over several death sentences during his career, said he did not enjoy handing down such sentences but did so because it was provided for by the law.