Zim: Justice minister says the state will eventually remove death penalty

Zimbabwe has upheld the death penalty in the new Constitution, but recently appointed Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is showing a willingness to do away with the provision.

Mnangagwa was put on death row in the 1960s after being convicted for treason during the ­liberation war, but he escaped the ­gallows due to what he said was an "age technicality".

Last week, at Amnesty International's event to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, Mnangagwa said that with the advent of the new Constitution, there was no doubt about what direction the country was taking with regard to executions.

"Zimbabweans spoke their mind through the new charter, which now reserves the penalty for those persons convicted only of murder in aggravating circumstances," Mnangagwa said.

According to the new Constitution, people younger than 21 and older than 70 at the time of conviction cannot be sentenced to death.

Mnangagwa said this represents a positive development in the government's efforts to eventually remove the death penalty, adding that though a new hangman was hired this year "it does not signify a step backwards but a fulfilment of the legal requirements". The hangman's post became vacant in 2005.

Moratorium on executions
"I believe that our justice system must rid itself of this odious and obnoxious provision. The mental torture [for inmates] occasioned by the mere knowledge that it is all over, coupled with the experience of being treated as the ‘scum' of society, brings utter hopelessness and despair," Mnangagwa said.

Information obtained by the Mail & Guardian from the ministry of ­justice and legal affairs and Amnesty International shows that 87 men and two women are on death row.

Most were convicted of ­murder in the course of robbery where no extenuating circumstances were found.

Cousin Zilala, the executive director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe, has encouraged the government to declare an immediate moratorium on executions, saying that an opportunity was missed in the recent Constitution-drafting process to abolish the provision.

According to Amnesty International, 76 people have been executed in Zimbabwe since 1980 and 244 people, who were sentenced to death during the same period, had their sentences commuted to life terms or overturned by the Supreme Court.

Most members of the Southern African Development Community, including Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa have abolished the death penalty.

Zimbabwe last carried out executions in 2004 – Edmund Masendeke and Stephen Chidhumo were convicted of murder, rape and armed robbery.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders