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Move to abolish death penalty gets nod



DZIVARESEKWA member of the National Assembly Edwin Mushoriwa says a constitutional amendment to align with cabinet’s decision to abolish the death penalty should quickly be enacted to end capital punishment once and for all.


Cabinet last Tuesday agreed to abolish the death penalty following months of debate in Parliament. In recent years, the authorities have not exacted capital punishment, choosing instead to impose lengthy jail sentences for murder and other serious crimes. Cabinet passed a private member’s Bill introduced last year in the National Assembly to abolish the death penalty.

Speaking during an Amnesty International meeting in Harare recently, Mushoriwa said there is a risk that, if left unattended and there is a change of government, the death penalty could be restored.

“As long as section 48(2) remains in the constitution, there is the possibility that some other time, some other parliament, some other executive, may decide to re-impose the death penalty. And this is the reason why once we have done this Bill and it has gone through, our next focus is to make sure that section 48(2) is actually removed from the constitution, so that will be the next move,” said Mushoriwa.

As it stands, section 48(2) of the constitution permits the death penalty for murder in aggravating circumstances.

It reads: “A law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.”

Offenders can currently be sentenced to death for three offences, namely treason; where the act of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism results in the death of a person; for murder and for attempted murder or incitement or conspiracy to commit murder.

Mushoriwa said any reference to the death penalty in the statutes should be erased.
“We do not intend to remove the reading in the constitution, but all we simply need to do is to amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act by repealing any reference to the death penalty,” he said.

In the minutes of the 6 February meeting, cabinet agreed that a long custodial sentence was better than the gallows.

“Cabinet approved the abolition of the death penalty and agreed that the circumstances attracting death penalty options include where the murder is committed against a prison or police officer, or minor or pregnant woman; or it is committed in the course of other serious crimes or where there was pre-meditation. In view of the need to retain the deterrent element in sentencing murderers, it is expected that the new law will impose lengthy sentences without violating the right to life. The existence of aggravating circumstances may attract life sentences,” read the minutes.

International human rights organisation Amnesty International has for a long time lobbied for the abolition of the death penalty, arguing that executions cannot be reversed once done and that in most cases the imposition of the death penalty has not been a panacea to the commission of crimes.

After the cabinet decision, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and southern Africa, Khanyo Farisè, said capital punishment never had a place in the world.
“Zimbabwe has taken the right step towards ending this abhorrent and inhuman form of punishment that has no place in our world,” Farisè said.

The last execution in Zimbabwe was in 2005 and, for the past 19 years, those condemned to death have been waiting on death row.
Farise added that the only thing missing is making the cabinet proclamation law through Parliament.

“Now that the cabinet has given its nod, Parliament must ensure the death penalty is truly abolished by voting to pass legislation that will make this a reality,” she said.

Despite carrying out its last execution in 2005, death sentences have continued to be imposed.

The latest death sentence was slapped on the duo of Tafadzwa Shamba and Tapiwa Makore Senior that was convicted of the callous murder of seven-year-old Tapiwa Makore Junior from Murewa, Mashonaland East province.

This brings to 63 the number of convicts on death row.

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