80 prisoners on death row in Zimbabwe… but no hangman

By Daniel Chigundu

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed that the country has failed to find a hangman to execute about 80 prisoners who are on death row since 2005.

The last know criminals to be hanged in the country are the notorious and dreaded duo of Edmore Masendeke and Stephen Chidumo.

Capital punishment has become a very topical issue worldwide, with many nations and human rights organisations calling for its abolishment.

A few months ago in Geneva, about 89 United Nations member states urged Zimbabwe to consider the issue of the death penalty.

Speaking in Parliament during a question and answer segment, VP Mnangagwa who is against the death penalty himself said the country has failed to get the services of a hangman and that he is ready to accept Curriculum Vitaes from those interested in the job.

“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 the 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.

“Fortunately, the 10 were granted reprieve and their death penalties commuted to life. So we now have about 80 inmates in the death cells.

“We have not been executing inmates sentenced to death penalty for the past 12 years or so. The reason is because we do not have a hanger, Honourable members who want to apply can apply to me and I can assess their qualification for hanging if they have done that before, I will consider the application,” he said.

Under the new constitution women in the country are exempted from death penalty as well as every citizen under the age of 18 years.

However men from the age of majority going upwards are liable to death penalty and under the current law only aggravated murder attracts a death penalty.

Majority of Zimbabweans voted in favour of the death penalty during the constitution making exercise.

Commenting on his twitter account, constitutional lawyer and People’s Democratic Party president Tendai Biti accused VP Mnangagwa of not being consistent when it comes to issue of death penalty.

“Why does the butcher talk about the hangman instead of abolition? He talks left and drifts right. The death penalty must be abolished simple,” said Biti who is helping some prisoners fight their death sentences.

Harare West legislator and award winning human rights defender of the year, Honourable Jessie Majome is also critical of the death penalty and has travelled across the world trying to put her case against death penalty across.

Honourable Mnangagwa who once faced the death sentence during the colonial regime and was saved because of age, also revealed that government was working on a paper on death penalty and that it will be taken around the country for debate

Mnangagwa said the issue of death penalty should not be partisan or should not be a political party policy, but should be a national policy were everyone will be given a chance to add their views during the outreach programs.

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