It was interesting to hear Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressing the indaba of Legal Affairs ministers in Rome, Italy, as he spoke of efforts being made to abolish capital punishment in Zimbabwe.
By Pardon Maguta,Our Reader
For starters, capital punishment is the sentencing of a convict to death by a competent legal court. In other words, death sentence is legalised murder.
Such a law has no room in the modern world. It has to be done away with completely. Unlike South Africa and other progressive states, Zimbabwe still has the death penalty in its Constitution.
What it serves, no one knows, except Zanu PF, which campaigned vigorously for its inclusion in Constitutional Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013.
Among crimes where the death penalty applies is treason, sabotage, banditry and murder with intent. However, debate is centred on the usefulness of the death penalty.
Questions also concern why Zimbabwe chose to keep it in the Constitution applying it selectively, with women spared together with certain male age groups. This means a woman cannot be hanged no matter what crime she commits in Zimbabwe.
The fact that Mnangagwa, himself, an escapee of the death penalty through an age technicality at the courts of the white minority former government, opposes capital punishment, shows he understands the pain of facing the death penalty. Not only is it unjust, but shows the evil side of human beings. It does not even deter would-be offenders of similar crimes. We still wonder what capital punishment serves. The answer is nothing except to terminate life.
If there has to be any amendment to our Constitution, it must be the abolition of capital punishment. It is a Stone Age law, backward and unreasonable. It belongs to the archives or scrapyard of jurisprudence. Supporting the application of the death sentence is like supporting slavery and the slave trade in the 21st century. The hangman’s noose is not different from the biblical cross. It reminds us of the talk that not all laws are just and the death penalty is one of the unjust and inhumane sentences in our laws.
The inclusion of the death penalty was never supported by democratic and progressive elements of Zimbabwean society except Zanu PF. What use they wanted it for no sane person knows.
Such backward laws are usually used by dictators to instil fear into their subjects and not for reform or punishment.
However, as the world moves on, Zimbabwe must also move on. Lots of people in our jails have been on death row for years and its commutation for life behind bars might become the smiling side of our laws.