HARARE - Justice and Legal Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has said death row inmates could receive commutation to life imprisonment.
The declaration by Mnangagwa comes as rights groups have complained about inordinate delays in the disposal of the sentences of the death row inmates, as well as psychiatric conditions developed during incarceration, as grounds for clemency.
Mnangagwa, who was spared the hangman’s noose during the liberation struggle, told a Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (Zacro) anti-death penalty day commemoration on Friday, that he will be tabling the issue before Cabinet today.
Presently there are 98 death row inmates, including one woman.
“So I can tell you now that beginning this Tuesday (today), when Cabinet meets, the first 10 cases will be argued and I am sure some will succeed, and some will not,” Mnangagwa said.
“With the lady, it is guaranteed that she will not be executed. What is only left is to know her sentence, and it should be known before the end of the week.”
He added: “Restorative justice allows the offender to express genuine remorse and to make amends and provide restitution in a timely manner.”
Mnangagwa, who was arrested in his teens and sentenced to death by hanging by the racist Ian Smith regime in the 1960s, said he was against the death penalty.
“I spent 10 years locked up, never allowed to leave my room in Section D where they keep dangerous criminals,” he said.
“But look at me, I am just a humble villager.”
Two years after the formation of Zanu PF in 1963, a 19-year-old Mnangagwa, together with colleagues drawn from a special forces group known as the “Crocodile Gang” carried works of sabotage and allegedly blew up a train in Masvingo.
He was arrested, tried and condemned to the gallows, but due to his youthful age, escaped the capital punishment because he was below 21, the age at and above which a person convicted of the crime he committed could be hanged.
Mnangagwa, an avowed proponent for the abolition of the ultimate punishment, spoke passionately about the need to scrap the death sentence.