Human rights lobby groups have called for the removal of the death penalty from the country’s statutes, saying the punishment is inhuman and a deprivation of the right to life.Representatives of Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Padare and Amnesty International yesterday lobbied for the abolishment of capital punishment while commemorating the World Day of the Anti-Death Penalty Campaign.
They commended the amendment of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to spare women, men below 21 and those above 70 from hanging, but urged the Government to go a step further through scrapping the punishment.
Padare director Mr Calvin Hazangwe said no human being regardless of gender had the right to suffer the death penalty.
He said there was unequal treatment of men between 21 and 70 years who can face the death penalty.
“The new Constitution now has a provision that partially abolishes the death penalty in that it still acknowledges or retains the death penalty against men aged between 21 and 70, whilst it has abolished the execution of women, including those on the death row and men above 70 and below 21,” he said.
“Men and women are equal irrespective of gender and the law should be applied equally because as a country we have been progressively promoting messages that have been promoting gender equality.”
Speaking at the same event, Amnesty International campaign co-ordinator Mrs Vongai Chikwanda said the execution of people will not provide solutions to the high rate of crime.
She said there were no excuses for retaining the death penalty as it was a piece of legislation which was applied by the minority white government during the colonial era.
“We oppose death penalty in all cases without exception as the violation of one of the most fundamental human rights, which is the right to life,” said Mrs Chikwanda.
“It is an ultimate cruel, inhuman, degrading punishment.”
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association board chairperson Mrs Sarah Moyo said men and women on death row suffer mental anguish.
“An alternative should be the provision of life sentences which give the prisoners a chance to rehabilitate,” she said. “We do not want people to be murdered in cold blood.”
The call by the civil society groups come after Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa said Cabinet was going to review the death penalty.
Cde Mnangagwa, who survived the death penalty at the hands of the Rhodesian regime on a technicality, has also refused to sign death warrants for the 97 inmates on death row, saying the practice is cruel.