The Citizens Coalition for Change legislator for Dzivarasekwa Edwin Mushoriwa has applauded Cabinet for approving the abolition of the death penalty after he successfully raised a motion for the scrapping of capital punishment in Parliament last year.
Mushoriwa had called on Parliament to amend section 47 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and repeal of sections 337 to 342 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to facilitate the abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe.
In an interview this week, Mushoriwa told NewsDay that the decision was a step in the right direction.
“The decision by the Cabinet is a step in the right direction and I am glad that the Executive is in agreement with the Parliament position that gave the nod for the introduction of the Death Penalty Abolishment Bill.
“The way forward is that the Bill will be going for a second reading stage in the National Assembly very soon. Currently we are engaging the Parliamentary Legal Committee to iron out some issues they raised in their report,” he said.
Mushoriwa commended Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi for steering the discussion in Cabinet, while applauding President Emmerson Mnangagwa as an advocate for death penalty abolishment.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Jenfan Muswere announced during post-Cabinet media briefing on Tuesday this week that Cabinet had approved the abolition of the death penalty.
According to the media briefing, Muswere said Cabinet had considered and approved the memorandum on the Private Member’s Death Penalty Abolition Bill, which was presented by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi as the chairperson of the Cabinet committee on Legislation.
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“The Cabinet also considered and approved the abolition of the death penalty and agreed that the circumstances attracting death penalty options include where the murder is committed against a prison or police officer, or minor or pregnant woman; or it is committed in the course of other serious crimes or where there was premeditation.
“In view of the need to retain the deterrent element in sentencing murderers, it is expected that the new law will impose lengthy sentences without violating the right to life,” Muswere said.
Speaking during an Amnesty International media workshop on the death penalty this week, Mushoriwa said there were other ways that could be adopted such as life sentence.
“Prior to 2016 there was no law. So, basically what we are doing is that we are going back to 2016, we are just moving to ensure that there is no law and try to ensure that those people on death row can be in a position to have their sentences changed to, either, life imprisonment or other minimal sentences,” he said.
“Our hope and our belief is that this bill passes through even though it means there are going to be some amendments to certain words.”
He said the death penalty tended to have psychological effects on prisoners.
“Most of the inmates who have spent, for example, more than three years on the death row are psychologically damaged. I know there are some people who wish for the death sentence to remain but the question is if the death penalty is a deterrent why are the murders continuing to happen?”
Mushoriwa called on the government to work on other mechanisms and processes that will deter people from committing crimes of that nature.
He said poor communities were more susceptible to the harsh penalty as they did not have access to legal representation.
Cabinet’s move to abolish the death penalty has been applauded by Amnesty International which said Zimbabwe has “taken the right step towards ending this abhorrent and inhuman form of punishment that has no place in our world”.
“Now that the cabinet has given its nod, Parliament must ensure the death penalty is truly abolished by voting to pass legislation that will make this a reality,” said Khanyo Farise, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa.
“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception because it violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Mnangagwa has publicly denounced the death penalty after surviving the hangman’s noose on a technicality following his arrest during the liberation struggle.
Zimbabwe has been on a de facto moratorium on executions for about 17 years with the last having been conducted in 2005.
The Constitution maintains the death sentence but excludes women, men under the age of 21 and men over the age of 70 from being sent to the gallows.
Zimbabwe has 62 convicted prisoners facing the death penalty.
Meanwhile, legal think-tank Veritas has proposed the retrial of all inmates sentenced to death in a model law presented as part of its latest push for the abolishment of the death sentence in Zimbabwe.