A RECENT High Court ruling condemning Tapiwa Makore Senior and accomplice Tafadzwa Shamba to death for the brutal murder of then seven-year-old Tapiwa Makore Junior has once again revived debate on the contentious death penalty.
Tapiwa Junior was killed in the most aggravating circumstances by his father's elder brother Tapiwa Senior and Shamba for ritual purposes.
His body was dismembered.
His torso was found being mauled by dogs the morning after his murder while other body parts were recovered from a pit latrine.
The torso was buried a year later and the head remains missing.
High Court judge Justice Munamato Mutevedzi handed down the death sentence on the pair, but the sentence has drawn mixed emotions.
After the handing down of the judgemnt, Tapiwa Junior’s mother, Linda Munyori, said the case had divided the family.
The judgment comes at a time when the country has been mulling abolishing the death penalty.
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Zimbabwe has not carried out executions since 2005 as there is no hangman.
The job has since remained unfilled, despite wide spread unemployment in the country.
Some death row inmates are languishing in solitary confinement and their petitions for clemency have been rejected.
At the end of 2019, the country had about 80 people on death row.
In a statement, Amnesty International said the death penalty violated the right to life.
“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the State to execute the prisoner,” Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa, Khanyo Farisè, said.
“While Amnesty International acknowledges the pain and anguish felt by Tapiwa’s family following the death of Tapiwa Makore, the death penalty is never the appropriate response and must never be used in any circumstances anywhere in the world.
“There is no credible evidence that the death penalty has a greater deterrent effect on crime than prison terms.”
Child and human rights activists expressed different opinions over the death sentence.
“We commend the police and the High Court for a job well done in ensuring thorough investigations, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators,” said child rights activist Opal Masocha Sibanda.
“Undoubtedly, justice has been finally served and the sentence is welcome considering the severity of the crime and the aggravating circumstances under which the crime was committed.”
Sibanda said the death sentence served as a deterrent to would-be offenders.
“This will go a long way in ensuring protection of children’s rights enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and children’s right to life, survival and development, right to be protected against all forms of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment, as well as protection against harmful social and cultural practices enshrined in the African Children’s Charter which had been ratified by Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We should, however, bear in mind that other than the convicted persons, there are other individuals out there who are alleged to have been involved in the murder of Tapiwa.”
Another child rights activist, Caleb Mtandwa, said it was difficult to ascertain if the death sentence has finally brought justice and closure to the Makore family.
“It’s a very sensitive issue,” Mtandwa said.
“The concept of justice can be approached from different perspectives. Whose justice? Are those directly and more affected by the crime satisfied that justice was done?”
“The death sentence is informed by a retributive sense of justice but does this satisfy all concerned, especially those directly affected by the crime.
“Within our African system of justice, we had a restorative sense of justice which sought to address the needs of those directly affected by the crime and mend relations.
“Is this now needed in a crime which involves family members and those who lived closely within the same community?
“I can only agree that they needed a very harsh sentence but it’s difficult to continue justifying the death sentence.”
Mtandwa said it was necessary to note that the court, where there are no extenuating circumstances, could only sentence them to death.
“I cannot, therefore, fault the court, but they have a right to automatically appeal to the Supreme Court against that sentence,” he said.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum executive director Musa Kika concurred.
“The court was well within its rights to do what it did allowable within our Constitution and our statute books,” Kika said.
“It remains for us as a society to determine whether we want the death penalty to remain.
“Currently, there are consultations nationwide by the Ministry of Justice for us to decide if we want it.”
“The problem with the death penalty is that once imposed cannot be reversed in those cases that an appeal may then be overturned.
“The sanctity of life is so important that we would want to apportion ourselves as mortal beings to take away people's lives.
“It’s a very emotive issue that needs careful consideration.”
In 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa commuted death sentences to life imprisonment for all prisoners on death row for at least 10 years.
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