New opinion study shows Zimbabwean public ready to accept death penalty abolition

The Death Penalty Project, in partnership with Veritas, has launched a national public opinion study, providing for the first time comprehensive and contextualised data on public attitudes towards the death penalty in Zimbabwe, a country that has not carried out any executions in more than 12 years.


The research was undertaken by Dr Mai Sato of the University of Reading, in association with the University of Zimbabwe.It is reported that a nationally representative survey was carried out with 1,200 Zimbabweans. Amongst other key questions, respondents were asked about their knowledge of the death penalty, whether they think Zimbabwe should move towards abolition and how they rank the death penalty when compared with other criminal justice policies.

It is also reported that there are three main conclusions to be drawn from the findings such as support for the dealth penalty being relatively low.

It is reported that  *61%* of Zimbabweans supported retention of the death penalty, 41% thought it should ‘definitely’ be kept and 20% said that it should ‘probably’ be kept.

“When confronted with a range of typical case scenarios, a majority of Zimbabweans rejected imposing the death penalty in *five out of six* cases,” the report said.

It is reported that while a majority of Zimbabweans expressed support for the death penalty, this is much lower than may be expected for a country that retains the death penalty.

Comparatively, a survey conducted in Trinidad
<http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Public-Opinion-on-the-Mandatory-Death-Penalty-in-Trinidad-Report-Final.pdf> in 2011 revealed that 89% of the public were in favour of keeping the death penalty.

Moreover, the report adds, the reluctance of Zimbabweans to impose the death penalty in different cases where the sentence could typically be applied suggests that support for capital punishment may be much lower in practice.

Another finding is that support for the death penalty is not entrenched. It is reported that *92%* of Zimbabweans considered policies other than ‘more executions’ to be most effective at reducing violent crime. Also *80% *of those Zimbabweans who expressed support for the death penalty would be willing to accept abolition if it were to become government policy.

The report says that the findings suggest that the death penalty is not an issue that Zimbabweans feel particularly strongly about and, if the government were to abolish, this decision would be widely accepted.

Another finding is that public knowledge about the dealth penalty is limited.

It is reported that *83%* were unaware that Zimbabwe has not carried out any executions in the past decade and that *45%* did not know that the method of execution in Zimbabwe is hanging.

According to the report, respondents’ were generally poorly informed about the use of the death penalty in Zimbabwe and their opinions were therefore based on incomplete knowledge of the issue.

The research provides critical data to assist Zimbabwean policymakers   in particular those who may wish to move away from capital punishment but are faced with the dilemma of apparently strong public support for the death penalty.

* “This illuminating research comes at an important time for Zimbabwe. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has in the past publically called for abolition of the death penalty. The findings should serve to assure policymakers that public opinion is not a barrier to abolition in Zimbabwe. We hope it will further encourage all governments of countries that retain the death penalty to question their assumptions on public attitudes.**”*

The Death Penalty Project <http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org> is an international legal action charity based at and supported by London legal firm Simons Muirhead & Burton, LLP. For more than three decades, The Death Penalty Project has worked to protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty.

The Death Penalty Project commissioned Dr Mai Sato, University of Reading to deliver this research. The fieldwork was carried out by independent researcher organisation the Mass Public Opinion Institute. This study was undertaken in partnership with Zimbabwean NGO Veritas and in association with the University of Zimbabwe. The research was funded by a grant received from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The report *12 Years Without an Execution: Is Zimbabwe Ready for
Abolition *will
be available to download from The Death Penalty Project’s website from 21
May 2018.

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