Death penalty divides Zim parliament
Harare (New Ziana)- Zimbabwean legislators are sharply divided over scraping the death penalty, as the country reforms its laws to align them to global precepts of human rights.
Despite the constitution providing for the death penalty, and the courts continuing to impose the death sentence, Zimbabwe has not carried out an execution since 2005, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa periodically commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.
Dzivarasekwa MP, Edwin Mushoriwa raised the motion for the provision of the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill in Parliament.
Shamva South legislator, Joseph Mapiki took to the scriptures to support his view that the death penalty should be abolished.
“God says that no one has the right over the life of another,” he said.
Vimbai Mutokonyi, Marondera East MP, also supported the abolishment of death as a sentence.
“There is no study that has confirmed that if there is (the) death penalty in the country, that can reduce or minimise the murder. As such, it is improper to have a death sentence,” he argued.
He, however, believed the death sentence would be appropriate if applied to cases involving terrorism and treason, where national interests were at stake.
“It could be to an extent, not good to have the death penalty but also it does send a message to people who would have thought of going through such dangerous and such disastrous kind of crimes, particularly the crime of terrorism,” he said.
Bulawayo North lawmaker, Minenhle Gumede said Zimbabwe should abide by international human rights obligations against the death sentence.
“Since 2005, no executions but the death penalty continues to be imposed. “The fact that we have not done any execution for the past five years or so means that we are already migrating towards abolition, similar to other countries in Africa and beyond. I, therefore, believe that we must put finalisation on the contentious matter as my colleagues have rightfully put it that death penalty is irreversible and mistakes can happen,” he said.
She said the death penalty also takes a toll on family members, hence it should be abolished.
“I also wish to put to you that the death penalty has an effect, psychologically, on family members whose relatives get sentenced to death. This includes but is not limited to depression, PTSB, stigma among other mental health related issues. The experience itself of a violent loss is distinct and is like no other experience. Let us rather emulate the global movement with good examples being shown, even by our neighbour Zambia, whose legislative leadership has chosen the same course of action, which is to completely abolish this archaic practice” she said.
Mufakose MP, Susan Matsunga, added her voice in support of the abolishment of the death sentence.
But Tsitsi Zhou, another legislator, was of mixed mind on the matter.
“Let me also say that if there is anyone who would have used their hand to kill others, that hand should be cut,” she said.
President Mnangagwa, an escapee of the death penalty by a whisker, has publicly denounced the sentence, and has commuted most of these to life in jail.
The debate in parliament, which is still in the early stages, appears tilted in favour of those pushing for the scraping of the death sentence.
Perhaps strengthening their arguement, the country has had no hangman since 2005, from which time no execution of a prisoner has been carried out.