The death penalty has been a contentious subject of debate in Zimbabwe for many years, but there have been indications in recent years that Zimbabweans are against taking of life as punishment.
The country’s new constitution leans in favour of abolition and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was, until last month, the Justice minister, is also against capital punishment.
The fact that there has been no executions for the past 12 years and that the country has no hangman is evidence that Zimbabwe has been moving towards the abolition of the death penalty.
It was shocking, frightful and tragic therefore, to hear President Robert Mugabe last week expressing a wish to have executions resumed. One of the reasons for Mugabe’s death wish was the recent callous murder of a Catholic nun by a suspected mentally-challenged person.
Mugabe is entitled to his personal opinions, but as leader of a country, advocating for death when it is apparent, in the constitution, that the majority of your subjects are against the death penalty, becomes worrisome.
There is more than 60 people waiting to be killed at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison right now and they have been sitting in the solitary confinement of their cells for years, waking up every morning and expecting to be dragged to the gallows. Their petitions for clemency have been rejected by Mugabe.
We extend no mercy for these condemned societal outcasts, but still, they deserve to receive justice as modern society deems — not to be killed. While we do not condone criminals, including murderers, we think the death penalty is morally wrong.
Those who clamour for the death penalty do not know that they have literally descended to ancient times where an eye for an eye was central to legislation and this, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, will make the whole world blind.
We are all aware of how the justice system is prone to manipulation by politicians in this country and it might not be surprising to have innocent people hanged for political expediency.
Research has also shown that although the death sentence represents a strong condemnation of brutal and violent crimes, it does not necessarily deter people from perpetrating violent crimes.
The late former High Court judge Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe, who in his career sentenced many convicts to death, said him and many of his colleagues on the bench, wished the death penalty was abolished.
He said judges go to great length to find extenuating circumstances in a bid to avoid reaching the capital sentence verdict.
We believe human life is sanctified and no person has the power or control over another.