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Zimbabwe considers scrapping death penalty

25 February 2016, 13:57

Harare — Zimbabwe's vice president, who once faced the death penalty, says the country will consider scrapping capital punishment, local media reported.

Speaking at an international meeting of justice ministers against the death penalty in Rome, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the justice minister, said the country is close to abolishing its capital punishment, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.

"We will not hesitate to expunge capital punishment from our laws," said Mnangagwa. "The death penalty is, in fact, a flagrant violation of the right to life and dignity."

Mnangagwa was himself sentenced to death when Zimbabwe was white-minority-ruled Rhodesia, only avoiding it because he was too young at the time. He was arrested in 1965 for blowing up locomotives during Zimbabwe's anti-Rhodesian war and served 10 years in jail after authorities ruled he was too young to be hanged, according to the Zimbabwean parliamentary website.

Also Read: Zimbabwe steps ups security at diamond fields after govt seizes firms

The country of 13 million has nearly 100 death row inmates. The last execution was in 2005, partly because the country cannot find anyone willing to take up the hangman's position.

Last month, a group of death row inmates approached Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court in a bid to have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

"Because of the torture we have been subjected to whilst waiting for a long time on death row, it will be unconstitutional to execute us," Cuthbert Chawira, a murder convict on death row for 15 years, said in an affidavit submitted in court. Prison guards regularly taunt inmates about their imminent executions, he said. Constitutional Court judges are yet to rule on the matter.

Zimbabwe's constitution says the death penalty only applies to males aged between 21 and 70 convicted of "murder committed in aggravating circumstances."

- AP


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