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Lawyers support Mnangagwa's call for death penalty

by Staff reporter
28 Mar 2023 at 06:47hrs | Views
In 2015, PRESIDENT Mnangagwa said he knows the tribulations faced by those on death row as he survived the hangman's noose when the Ian Smith regime sought capital punishment to stop him from fighting for the country's independence.

He told this to Justice Ministers from across the world who were attending a conference on the abolition of the death penalty in Rome, Italy at that time when he was still the country's VP overseeing the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

The President said in Zimbabwe, the death penalty was a remnant of colonial laws that ought to be scrapped.

"Historically under the Munhumutapa Empire we did not have the death penalty. It came with the British. They introduced nine crimes that attracted the death penalty. For 100 years they did not hang a single British criminal but the African people," said President Mnangagwa then.

The death penalty remains in the Constitution after Zimbabweans voted for its retention during consultations that led to the drafting of the new home grown Constitution in 2013.

Capital punishment does not however apply to women and all persons aged below 21 and above 71.

While the country's Constitution upholds the death penalty, no criminal has been executed since 2002 despite the fact that courts are still sentencing criminals to hang.

As part of the push to abolish the death penalty, Government is conducting public hearings on whether the country should scrap the death penalty.

The hearings will run from 27 March to 7 April.

The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has set a schedule for the consultation process.

The public consultations are expected to guide the country on the policy position that needs to be adopted with regards to the death penalty.

One team has been deployed to conduct the public consultations in the northern part of the country and the other one has been deployed to the southern part.

In Bulawayo, the consultations will be held on 31 March at the Small City Hall from 10 AM to 12 PM before the team moves to Nkulumane Hall where the meeting will be held from 2 PM to 4 PM.

Another public hearing will be held in St Peters Village on the outskirts of Bulawayo on April 1.

In Matabeleland North consultations will be held in Lupane at Lupane Community Hall on 5 April from 2 PM to 4 PM and on the same day another public hearing will be held at Ntabazinduna Hall in Umguza from 9 AM to 11 pm.

On 7 April a consultations meeting will be held in Victoria Falls at Chinotimba Hall from 10AM to 12PM.

In Matabeleland South, public hearings will be held in Beitbridge at Vhembe High School on 3 April between 9AM and 11AM and on the same day another meeting will be at Gwanda Town at Gwanda District Club from 2PM to 4PM.

Another consultation meeting will be held in Matobo District on 4 April at Natisa Presbyterian Church from 10 AM to 12PM.

The consultations for Gweru have been set for tomorrow at Gweru Theatre from 9 AM to 11 AM.

Lawyers who spoke to Chronicle yesterday agreed with President Mnangagwa that the death penalty must be scrapped.

Human rights lawyer and chairperson of Amnesty International Zimbabwe Mr Godfrey Nyoni said the death penalty is barbaric, inhuman and should be abolished.

"As a human rights defender l believe the death penalty cannot be supported, it's barbaric and inhuman.

The right to life is absolute, God-given and protected under the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights, and the Optional Protocols on the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights," he said.

Mr Nyoni said death penalty has no more place in our society.

"It's traumatic even to the hangmen themselves and those who will be watching. It turns them into cold-blooded brutes as they eliminate lives under the authority of the law and cannot do anything to any pleas for mercy," he said.

Mr Nyoni commended the Ministry of Justice for embarking on a nation-wide consultative process in order to gather people's views on the issue.

"This also explains why there is a history of hangmen resigning on short notice. The other downside to this sentence is that if someone commits a serious crime in Zimbabwe and flees to a country that has abolished the death penalty, that ‘host' country has the discretionary right to refuse to extradite that fugitive to Zimbabwe," he said.

Bulawayo lawyer, Mrs Nikiwe Ncube-Tshabalala said the death penalty should be abolished. She argued that it violates the fundamental right to life.

"My view on the death penalty is that it must be abolished. I don't think as a country we have the right mechanism to execute it. Since we are now prisons and correctional services, we should rehabilitate those convicted of murder instead of subjecting them to capital punishment," she said.

Mrs Ncube-Tshabala said in other jurisdictions or countries such convicts are rehabilitated through building bridges, roads and other public works.

"Why not use such manpower for the rightful reasons? They remain in prison for the rest of their lives but also contribute to the development of the country's infrastructure," she said.

Mrs Ncube-Tshabalala said it is only God who has authority over life and death.

A legal practitioner from Gweru, Mr Wellington Davira of Gundu, Dube and Pamacheche law firm said while the majority of nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60 percent of the world's population live in countries where the death penalty is retained such as China, India, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan and Taiwan.

"We are now moving into time when this must be outlawed but it's only possible if there is a public input which the Government is trying to solicit through the public consultations. This is actually commendable so that we get the people's views on the issue," he said.

Source - The Chronicle