Sunday, November 06, 2016

Zimbabwe Vice President Sets Record Straight on Death Penalty
Lloyd Gumbo in GENEVA, Switzerland

Government is set to consult Zimbabweans on whether the country should retain the death penalty or completely abolish it in fulfilment of recommendations from other United Nations Member-States, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.Zimbabwe has 90 inmates on death row. Several countries attending the Universal Periodic Review meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group here implored Zimbabwe to scrap capital punishment from its statutes.

They urged Government to immediately suspend the death penalty while it considers completely abolishing it. Vice President Mnangagwa, who is also in charge of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said the country has not executed anyone on death row in more than a decade. In an interview with The Sunday Mail, VP Mnangagwa said Government could not unilaterally abolish the death penalty without consulting Zimbabweans who retained it in the new Constitution.

“We have decided that I should make a paper on the issue of the death penalty, which will be made public for the purposes of debate, whether we still need to continue to have the death penalty as part of our statutes or do we need to remove it,” said VP Mnangagwa.

“That is, we are showing that we are not very comfortable with the death penalty. But the issue of the death penalty cannot be an issue of Cabinet alone, we believe that it is an issue where the general public must express itself since it was brought into our statute through the Constitution as a result of national consultation during the outreach programme.”

VP Mnangagwa said while the new Constitution retained the capital punishment, there were major improvements that deserve credit.

“In the past, anybody above the age of 21 could be sentenced to death if they committed certain crimes like aggravated murder, mutiny or treason. All those things were there.

“But under the current Constitution, that has now been reduced. First, no woman of whatever age can be sentenced to death now. Secondly, no one who is below the age of 18 can be sentenced to death.

“Then with regard to men, those between the age of 21 and 70 can be sentenced to death for aggravated murder. Those above 70 are immune to be sentenced to death,” said VP Mnangagwa.

VP Mnangagwa told the plenary here that Cabinet approved Presidential clemency on 10 inmates who requested for their death sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment.

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