President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa who is known for publicly denouncing the death penalty after surviving the hangman’s noose on a technicality following his arrest during the liberation struggle, got support from Parliamentarians across political divide.
In a rare show of solidarity, legislators from across the political divide have called for the abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe arguing that it violates human dignity.
Dzivarasekwa legislator Edwin Mushoriwa (Citizens Coalition for Change, CCC) raised the motion for the provision of the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill in Parliament last week.
He called on Parliament to pass an Act amending section 47 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act while repealing sections 337 to 342 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which would abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe.
“I move the motion standing in my name that leave be granted to bring in a Private Member’s Bill to provide for the abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe … and to provide for the matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.
“I would like to preface my debate with this motion by just bringing to the members the definition of the death penalty which is also regarded as capital punishment.
“This is a State sanctioned practice of killing a person as a punishment for a crime, which, in the case of Zimbabwe, is murder in aggravating circumstances.
“In our culture, the death penalty was never part of the Zimbabwean culture. Our traditional justice criminal system was based on compensation and restorative justice.”
Mushoriwa said the death penalty was not an effective deterrent to crime and was often applied in a discriminatory manner.
“Death penalty by nature is irreversible. Death penalty by nature also generates more anguish and it also perpetuates the psyche of violence, generally, it is also inherently cruel and inhuman.
“The other issue which is also important, death sentences by nature are not victim-friendly. In my view, it is not right. I believe most of us in this august House will agree with me that our movement in the abolishment of the death penalty will be a move in the right direction,” he said.
Mushoriwa said there was a need to have a mechanism for coming up with a punishment that has a human face.
In support, Harare East legislator Allan Markham said most countries have abolished the death penalty, therefore, Zimbabwe should put an end to it.
“My issue is, internationally when it comes to human rights, most countries have moved away from the death penalty and we should follow suit in the interest of globalisation.
“I move that this House seriously considers, as quickly as possible that this punishment be put aside,” the CCC legislator said.
Emakhadeni-Luveve legislator Descent Bajila said: “The existence of the death penalty in our statutes is a sign of our lack of confidence in our correctional system. If we improve our correctional system, we will be able to correct all offenders.”
Zanu PF chief whip and Gutu South legislator Pupurai Togarepi also chipped in saying the death penalty constitutes cruelty and human degradation and it was contrary to the right to life.
“We cannot use the death penalty as a deterrent. It will not help, and it has failed that test. I really commend and support the motion.
“The best thing we can do as Parliament is to support that Bill and ensure that it sees the light of day and it becomes a law,” Togarepi said.
Zimbabwe has been on a de facto moratorium on executions for about 17 years with the last having been conducted in 2005.
The Constitution maintains the death sentence but excludes women, men under the age of 21 and men over the age of 70 from being sent to the gallows.
Currently, Zimbabwe has 62 convicted prisoners facing the death penalty at the Harare Central Prison.
Legal think-tank Veritas has also proposed the retrial of all inmates sentenced to death in a model law presented as part of its latest push for the abolishment of the death sentence in Zimbabwe.