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97 Zimbabwe prisoners on death row

by Staff reporter
30 Jan 2014 at 20:01hrs | Views
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa says 97 inmates are on the death row after being convicted of various offences, government controlled ZBC News reported.
In a presentation on the constitution of Zimbabwe at the Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare, Mnangagwa said the new constitution which received overwhelming support from Zimbabweans recognises the fundamental human rights.
Minister Mnangagwa said it is imperative that every Zimbabwean reads and understands the supreme law of the country, adding that while every citizen has the right to life, such human rights can only be qualified if the laws of the land are observed.
"We uphold fundamental human rights and we expect people to observe other laws of the land. We have 97 inmates on death penalty because they failed to observe other laws," the minister said.
Mnangagwa also told the students that the constitution of Zimbabwe does not permit the execution of women and those above the age of 70.
Although the death penalty is still on the books in Zimbabwe, there have been no executions since 2004, in part because there was no hangman.
Years of unsuccessful headhunting by the country's Justice and Legal Affairs ended last September with a sombre announcement by Justice and Legal Affairs secretary David Mangota: the government had secured a hangman who was "raring to go" which  activated the dormant penalty.
Little is known of the hangman, who is rumoured to be from Malawi. 
The announcement came as a surprise, given the ambivalence within the Zimbabwean criminal justice system about executions. 
The recruitment of the hangman sharply divided the unity government - formed between President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
Minister Chinamasa belongs to Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and his deputy Obert Gutu is a member of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Chinamasa when he was still the Justice and Legal Affairs ministry said in a country with high levels of violence and regular reports of grisly rapes and murders, the perpetrators of such crimes are "worthy" of death sentences.
Meanwhile, men on death row such as convicted murderer Shepherd Mazango, who robbed and hacked a man to death, have raised constitutional arguments in a Supreme Court challenge against the death penalty.
Convicted to die by hanging in November 2009, Mazango's presidential mercy petition fell through. He has filed an emergency motion with the courts, but because court cases have been known to take ages without judgments, Zimbabwean defence lawyers have raised arguments that forcing someone accused or even convicted of a capital offence to wait for years before an execution amounted to cruel and unusual punishment - which the constitution says is illegal.
Mazango wants his sentence commuted to life in prison, and says he has suffered anguish on death row because of the delay in execution.
"This [delay in execution] has caused severe trauma on the inmates that some of them are losing their mind," Mazango said in his constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court.
"The very thought that I am dying steals all my hope for the future, makes me restless and the delay traumatises me. It causes me emotional and psychological trauma. Worse still, to think that I can spend 13 years before execution like my colleague George Manyonga crushes me."

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Source - zbc