Abigail Mawonde Herald Correspondent
TEN inmates on death row successfully petitioned Cabinet for exemption from the hangman’s noose and their sentences have since been commuted to life imprisonment, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Parliament recently.
There are 90 inmates on death penalty.
He was responding to a question from Zvishavane-Ngezi legislator John Holder, who had asked the Leader of the House what Government policy was on capital punishment.
“The current law in the country as articulated under our new Constitution is that women are exempted from capital punishment. Every citizen under the age of 18 is again exempted from capital punishment but men from the age of majority upwards are liable to death penalty,” he said.
“Under the current law, it is only one offence that attracts death penalty and that is aggravated murder. Until three weeks ago, we had 90 inmates who had been sentenced to death but three weeks ago, 10 of them submitted petitions to Cabinet, under a provision in the Constitution, for the President to exercise his prerogative of mercy where he deems it fit in terms of that provision of the Constitution,” explained VP Mnangagwa.
“Fortunately, the 10 were granted reprieve and their death penalties commuted to life. So we now have about 80 or 79 inmates in the death cells.”
VP Mnangagwa said inmates sentenced to death were still in prison because the country has not had a hangman for the past 12 years.
He said applications for the hangman’s job were still open.
VP Mnangagwa said during their attendance of the Universal Periodic Review meeting in Geneva a month ago, 89 members of the United Nations member states appealed to Zimbabwe to reconsider the issue of the death penalty.
He said Government was in the process of making a paper for public debate on the issue.
“I just wanted to find out if after this paper that is going to be presented to the public for debate, are we going to vote for it or what is the process then since capital punishment was part of the Constitution when we were making the Constitution?,” said Honourable Holder.
VP Mnangagwa said the issue of death sentence was made a public issue during the making of a new Constitution.
“The majority of our people in this country went for the death penalty. They supported the imposition of the death penalty and a minority, me included, went against the death penalty. We believe that the issue of the death penalty should not be partisan or should not be a political party policy. It should be a national policy where we need to have outreach programmes countrywide to discover the attitude of our people towards the issue of the death penalty.”
Mutasa Central MP Trevor Saruwaka asked VP Mnangagwa if the Constitution was not discriminatory against men when it only exempts women from the death penalty.
“To me, it would appear to be allowing men of a certain age to be killed; already it discriminates against men. Is that provision unconstitutional in as far as that is regarded?” he said.
Responded VP Mnangagwa: “I believe that the Honourable Member was a Member of this Assembly when we passed the Constitution, but he did not raise the issue that the Constitution was contradictory or discriminatory. So, the current Constitution is a document which was passed by the House.”