Scrap death penalty: Mnangagwa

HARARE - Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, says he is ready to resign from his Cabinet post in the event that he is forced to sign execution certificates for death row inmates.

In an emotional address to a reception to mark the Amnesty International Death Penalty Day at the Harare Gardens yesterday, Mnangagwa narrated the trauma he faced when was awaiting execution in 1965 at the height of the liberation struggle.

“My own personal opinion is that death sentence must be abolished in the country,” Mnangagwa said.

“I have expressed my disapproval many times in cabinet since 1980, that I am against death sentence.

“I am best qualified to talk about this issue as none of you people have faced the experience of facing death sentence.

“I was a young man then and I was arrested during the time of the liberation and I was put in prison and sentenced to death. I remember the callous experience I faced waiting to be hanged and we were made to mend our death gowns with my other colleagues.

“I escaped the hanging on a technicality as I was still a minor, but some of my comrades were hanged. I remembered the day vividly in my mind,” said Mnangagwa, who received a rapturous applause from the audience.

He said there were 89 inmates on death row, among them two women.

“I have to sign a death certificate as I am responsible for that portfolio, but fortunately for them I am not going to do that because I don’t believe that anyone must be hanged,” he said. “I prefer a situation where a convict serves a life term prison sentence.”

Since independence in 1980, 78 people have been executed, although the country has not carried out any executions since 2003.

The country’s new constitution restricts the death penalty only to persons convicted on mutiny, treason and aggravated murder.

The new charter abolishes it in the case of women and minors under the age of 21 and elder people aged above 70 years.