Hangman haunts Zim?

HARARE - Being a hangman can be a grisly job, particularly in Zimbabwe where 74 people await their turn at the gallows.

A Malawian hired to carry out the executions after Zimbabweans refused to take the job, might have to wait a little longer before claiming the first head.

This is because Cabinet ministers, MPs and civil society leaders have crossed swords over the issue.

A draft constitution certain to be adopted as the country’s supreme law states that any man below the age of 21 and above 70 should not be hanged while women will escape the capital punishment.

But that has not resolved the issue.

Sharp divisions have emerged between Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and his deputy Obert Gutu.

While recruitment of a hangman, a position which has been vacant since 2005 lies with the Justice ministry, Gutu said he did not even know who had been appointed hangman.

“I am not privy to the details of who was hired, I don’t know his or her name,” Gutu said in an interview with the Weekend Post.

The mainstream MDC senator for Harare East added: “The hiring of a hangman was most untimely and unwarranted, it sends the wrong signals. My personal tract is that it’s either we have it or abolish the death penalty.”

But Chinamasa on the other hand, says if the new constitution which all political parties are in favour of is passed, Cabinet will have to deliberate on the cases of people who are on death row despite any judgment passed in court.

The minister, who supposedly hired the Malawian hangman, is also non-committal on the death penalty.

The new constitution is set to be decided by  March 26  plebiscite upholds the death penalty.

However, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa says it does not mean women will go scot free, but that their exclusion is viewed as discriminatory.

The hiring of a hangman comes at a time when human rights organisations like Amnesty International are advocating for the abolition of capital punishment because it is inhuman.

“This macabre recruitment is disturbing and suggests that Zimbabwe does not want to join the global trend towards the abolition of this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment,” Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International Southern Africa director said.

In a statement posted on their website, Amnesty International called for the abolition of the death penalty regardless of gender and circumstances in which crime was committed.

At least 151 countries out of 193 who are member states of the United Nations have already abolished the death sentence.

Trends all over the world suggest that the death penalty is being done away with save for a few countries like China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Even China, which carries the most executions in the world, has removed the death penalty for at least 13 crimes.

In 2012, 33 countries pardoned death sentences compared to 19 in 2010, however 18 750 people remained on death row by the end of 2012 according to statistics released by Amnesty International.

In the United States of America, 16 out of 50 states have since abolished the death penalty.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said the death penalty not only violated the right to life but was cruel and in human.

“The regional trend is that countries are moving away from the death penalty. We were hoping that the constitution-making exercise would be an opportunity to re-look the death penalty and abolish capital punishment,” he said.

Misheck Marava, Zaka senator from mainstream MDC moved a motion in the upper house this week condemning the continued use of the death penalty in a country which subscribed to Christian principles.

A host of senators argued that the death penalty was unbiblical and against cultural norms.

But Zanu PF’s chiefs council president Fortune Charumbira said it was hypocritical for the legislators to move a motion to abolish the death penalty yet it was contained in the draft constitution which all political parties are campaigning for a “Yes” vote.

On the other end, pastor Alec Matimba of Apostolic Faith Mission, Belvedere Assembly, said abolishing capital punishment could leave society vulnerable.

“It’s not a church prerogative; it’s a head of State, who can actually pardon if he chooses to.

The victim has rebelled excessively against the authority by causing terror in society.

“Romans 13: 3 says rulers are not a terror to good works but of evil. This is scriptural demonstration that God expects damnation of unlimited extent to happen on violators of the law. At church at worst we ex-communicate, but at state level, they are not restrained from any punitive action biblically,” Matimba said. — Weekend Post

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