Lack of debate on death penalty stalls its abolition

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Harare New Ziana) –Lack of debate on the death penalty and not having any executions during the past 19 years have resulted in Zimbabwe not focusing on moves to abolish the capital punishment, a cabinet Minister has said.

Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said for some time Zimbabweans have not been discussing the issue of the death penalty while the country has also not been carrying out any executions since 2005, partly due to lack of takers for the post of hangman.

“The death penalty is still there,” he said.

“We have not had conversation on the death penalty for some time,” he added.

Ziyambi said at the moment the government was not focusing on amending the Constitution as it was seized with lifting the living standards of the people.

“We do not have any conversation on amending the Constitution at the moment,” he said.

While there have been calls for Zimbabwe to follow international trends and abolish the death penalty, the new Constitution adopted in 2013 failed to strike it off completely although it can only be imposed at the sentencing judge’s discretion on adult men for aggravated murder.

As a compromise between those who supported the death penalty and those who opposed it during the Constitution drafting process, the death penalty is excluded for women, persons below the age of 21, and persons above the age of 70 while all those sentenced to death have the right to seek pardon from the President.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is one of the leading lights in the campaign against the death penalty having been charged with treason back in 1965 and sentenced to hang but escaped the gallows on account of his age.

In June last year President Mnangagwa reiterated his call for the abolition of capital punishment in Zimbabwe and noted that a moratorium on executions had been in place since 2005.

He repeated the call in the foreword he wrote for a report titled; “Time to abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe: exploring the views of its opinion leaders”, which was being launched virtually.

President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had not executed any convict since 2005 and he hoped it would stay that way.

“Most Zimbabweans know that the death penalty is a subject on which I feel deeply. As I have said in the past, I believe it to be a flagrant violation of the right to life and dignity,” he said.

The report was a compilation of findings from an opinion canvassing report by Veritas, a local legal non-profit organisation and The Death Penalty Project, an international organisation fighting for the abolition of capital punishment.

“I welcome this report, which shows that almost all Zimbabwean opinion formers are of the same mind in that they wish to see the death penalty abolished. This report, and the research on which it is based follows upon a wider survey conducted in 2017, which revealed that only a small majority of our citizens are in favour of keeping the death penalty, and that out of those who favour it, 80 percent will be prepared to go with abolition if the Government so decides,” said President Mnangagwa then.

“There has not been an execution in Zimbabwe since 2005. For nearly 15 years, therefore, we have had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty. It is my sincere hope, in the near future Zimbabwe will formally abolish the death penalty by removing it from our statute books.”

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