Mnangagwa against death sentence

Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa says he would rather resign from his ministerial post than sign execution certificates for the 89 people currently on death row.

Centre, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa flanked on his left by Amnesty International Zimbabwe Director Cousin Zilala and Amnesty International Chairperson, Takesure Musiwa.
Centre, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa flanked on his left by Amnesty International Zimbabwe Director Cousin Zilala and Amnesty International Chairperson, Takesure Musiwa.

Addressing delegates at the World Death Penalty Day organised by Amnesty International Zimbabwe in Harare on Thursday, held under the theme “Time to abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe”, Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans must lobby against capital punishment.

According to him, two of the convicts facing the death penalty were women.

Mnangagwa, who, then a teenager, was sentenced to death in 1965 by the Rhodesian government for bombing a train during an anti-colonial campaign.

“The death penalty brings utter hopelessness and I remember the mental torture I experienced upon receiving the sentence in 1965. I was fortunate that I was saved by the age technicality (since the law prohibited capital punishment for persons below 18). For me, it does not matter where I am, I will always speak against the death penalty,” said Mnangagwa.

Section 48 of the new constitution stipulates that every person has the right to life ‘although a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.’

Parts (a) and (b) state: “The law must permit the court a discretion whether or not to impose the penalty. The penalty may be carried out only in accordance with a final judgement of a competent court.”

The constitution exempts persons who committed murder when they were less than twenty one years old and those over seventy years, in addition to all women.

Amnesty International Director, Cousin Zilala, said the death penalty should be repealed.

He said: “The death penalty is a violation of the right to life. It is the denial of human rights to citizens and whichever way we look at it, it is inhuman and degrading to mankind.”

In their solidarity messages, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said the constitution should protect all citizens regardless of their gender.

ZWLA Chairperson, Sara Moyo, said: “The constitution should offer equal protection to both men and women. Currently, it is discriminatory and unfair,” she said.

WCoZ National Coordinator, Netsai Mushonga, said the death sentence left a psychological scar on families and communities.

“Women value life because they give life. The torture that a person goes through waiting for execution is unbearable and there is need for the abolition of the death penalty,” said Mushonga.

In December 2012, the United Nations’ General Assembly voted on a new resolution for the suspension on the use of the death penalty.

Death Penalty Day that falls on October 10 every year, is meant to encourage states to adopt the principle that ‘the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity’.

According to the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, two-thirds of the world’s countries abolished the death penalty or ceased to apply it, and the number of executions has declined each year.

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