HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsReconsider capital punishment

Reconsider capital punishment


More and more people continue to be sentenced to death, to hang until they die. They would have been found guilty of cold-blooded murder and, according to Zimbabwean laws, a killer must also be killed.

More than 50 condemned prisoners languish inside Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on the outskirts of Harare today as they wait for their date with the hangman.

That date does not appear to be imminent, however, as Zimbabwe has no hangman. There are campaigns going on against capital punishment and Cabinet is said to have that issue on its agenda as well.

Arguments against the death penalty include moral issues and matters of the conscience. Judges who pass the death sentence apparently do so against their will, but only because that is what the law says.

They try very hard to find extenuating circumstances in a bid to avoid sending convicts to the gallows.

Those against the death penalty must not slack in their fight until Zimbabwe lawmakers realise the primitiveness of such a statute which has been thrown away in the majority of countries around us.
Being on death row is not a joke.

Some of the prisoners on death row have languished in solitary confinement for more than a decade. Their petitions for mercy have been rejected by President Robert Mugabe.

George Manyonga has spent 13 years awaiting execution, while James Dube and Bright Gwashinga have waited to be hanged for 10 and five years respectively.

Aaron Masongo was sentenced to death last week and will join the long list of condemned people that are in prison waiting to be executed.

At least 65 people have been hanged in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. But it is unlikely that those currently on death row will be executed any time soon. Chikurubi has searched high and low for a hangman for years now, but in vain.

Prison officials say the job of a hangman involves techniques and procedures that are very simple to learn. The candidate for the job need not possess any previous experience, neither does he have to be literate.

Officials at Chikurubi confirmed they had failed to recruit a hangman. Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the world that still have capital punishment on their statute books.

With more 50 prisoners on death row, there is growing agitation for the abolition of capital punishment through the ongoing constitution-making process. Of the 50 plus convicts on death row, a dozen have petitioned the President for clemency.

The rest are destined to hang, once an executioner is found.

Human rights groups have, for some time now, been circulating petitions calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

A draft constitution proposed by civil rights activists says judicial executions should be stopped.

Several prisoners on death row have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment after the Supreme Court ruled it inhumane to delay their execution.

Zimbabwe should, like its neighbours in the region, reconsider the issue of capital punishment.

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