Zimbabwe last week pardoned 10 inmates who were on death row after they requested for Presidential clemency while the remaining 80 will also survive the gallows if Government resolves to completely abolish capital punishment for all crimes, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
He said this during Zimbabwe’s presentation of its Human Rights National Report under the auspices of the Universal Periodic Review on Wednesday at the United Nations Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.
VP Mnangagwa who is in charge of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was responding to several calls from various countries who implored Zimbabwe to completely abolish the death penalty.
But VP Mnangagwa said while the country accepted the recommendation to abolish the death penalty at the last UPR in 2012, the majority of Zimbabweans who participated during the Constitution-making process said they wanted it retained.
He said Government was, however, undertaking nationwide public awareness campaigns to conscientise Zimbabweans on the effects of the death penalty.
VP Mnangagwa also dismissed claims by some countries that Zimbabwe had political prisoners and detainees.
“On the issue of the death penalty, may I share with you that for over a decade now, we have had no executions in Zimbabwe,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“Currently, we have 90 inmates under death penalty and last week in our Cabinet, we received 10 petitions for clemency from the President and all the 10 were granted.
“We then decided that I, as Vice President responsible for the administration of justice, should put a paper on the question of the abolition of the death penalty, which we have to debate.”
The Vice President said the new Constitution only imposed the death penalty on males aged between 21 and 70 years who are convicted of aggravated murder compared to the previous one that had a wider range of offences under, which one could be sentenced to death regardless of gender.
But representatives from several countries said it was critical that the country completely abolish capital punishment.
“We recommend that Zimbabwe completely abolishes the death penalty for all crimes and establish a moratorium on executions and to commute expeditiously death penalties by prison sentences,” said a representative of Uruguay.
Portugal’s representative said: “Portugal recommends Zimbabwe to establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to fully abolish it both in practice and in law in all cases and under all circumstances.”
Representatives of Belgium and Slovenia said notwithstanding the Government of Zimbabwe’s campaigns to conscientise citizens about the effects of the death penalty, it was important that capital punishment is immediately suspended.
Switzerland said it was concerned with the overcrowding and poor conditions in prisons and asked how Government intended to address the issue.
VP Mnangagwa said whenever the prison population exceeded holding capacity, Government came up with various interventions including the transfer of inmates from closed prisons to spacious farm prisons while others were released through Presidential clemency. Herald