In a historic move that could have far-reaching implications, the Zimbabwean government is on the brink of abolishing the death penalty. This policy shift was revealed following the first cabinet meeting of 2024, presided over by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. If realized, this significant change could steer the fate of 62 inmates currently facing the gallows.
Private Member’s Death Penalty Abolition Bill
The anticipated abolition is expected to be actioned through the Private Member’s Death Penalty Abolition Bill, anticipated to be passed this year. This proposed legislation aligns with the government’s commitment to hand down severe sentences, whilst upholding the fundamental right to life. The bill is expected to replace capital punishment with life sentences, particularly in instances of murder accompanied by aggravating circumstances.
Capital Punishment in Zimbabwe
At present, capital punishment in Zimbabwe, as stipulated by Section 48 of the constitution, is limited to men between the ages of 21 and 70 convicted of murder under aggravating circumstances. The last time the hangman’s noose was put to use in Zimbabwe was in 2005, involving notorious criminals Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke, who had managed a daring escape from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison a decade earlier.
Death Penalty: A Controversial Punishment in Africa
The application of the death penalty across Africa is inconsistent, with 30 countries still maintaining it in their legislation as of last year. Notably, no executions have been carried out in the past decade in 16 of these nations, and the death penalty has been abolished in 26 African countries. Despite vacancies for executioners attracting applicants in Zimbabwe in 2022, no one has been appointed to the role, and no executions have taken place in recent years.
In conclusion, the imminent abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe marks a significant shift in the country’s judicial landscape. The move not only mirrors a growing global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment but also underscores Zimbabwe’s commitment to uphold the sanctity of life, even in the face of heinous crimes.