by Chamu Norwa
You would think in a country like Zimbabwe where so many are unemployed, that a job opening would be quickly filled with many eager and keen hopefuls. A permanent job that comes with pension; a job that is not physically demanding; one that is very difficult to get fired from.
But this particular job has been vacant since 2005!
After the executions of notorious criminals, Masendeke and Chidumo, the last executioner had had enough. He bowed out and since then, he has been irreplaceable.
In 2011, it was rumoured that a Malawian had been appointed to the position but this did not materialise. The Prosecutor General still searches for a new hangman.
But why has no one stepped up to the position?
A few reasons come to mind.
A man who kills “apara ngozi” in the Shona culture meaning the spirit of the deceased will haunt him and avenge for the crime committed. Imagine now how many spirits would be haunting a hangman. He would bring misfortune and bad luck to himself and his family.
Religiously, the Biblical Commandments instruct “Thou shalt not kill”. A hangman therefore would be doomed to his own set of gallows: hell – where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In a social context, no one would want to be identified as a hangman. No one would want to be near a hangman! I can imagine children squirming in fear, religious leaders praying for an exorcism, grown men crossing the street to avoid being near a professional killer.
Even as an individual, the sheer knowledge that you are employed to end lives should consuming and morally void.
As a result, the hangman position has been vacant for over a decade. No one wants the job.
This should be evidence that there is something very sordid, inhumanly about it.
It should be evident that it is cold-hearted to condemn another man to death. It is unlike human nature to take another person’s life.
In January 2016, it was reported that over a hundred inmates were on death row. Some inmates have been there for over 18 years. Imagine the sheer and prolonged torture of being condemned to death and waiting indefinitely for the gallows.
102 countries have abolished the death penalty.
Why do we as Zimbabwe even still have the death penalty?
Some people do not deserve to live, based on the crimes they commit. But is it our place, as mere mortals, to condemn them to death?
In some countries the death penalty has been used as a tool by oppressive regimes to punish “traitors” and those who commit “treason”. Do we really want to keep something like that legal and available for use by those in leadership?
Isn’t it possible to rehabilitate death row inmates and perhaps engage them in productive labour such as working on farms or construction?
Methinks the death penalty should be abolished. It is unconstitutional. Everyone has a right to life.
In the meantime, the death penalty position remains open for taking. Those interested in applying should contact the Prosecutor General.