ZIMBABWE – The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has urged government to consider an abolition of capital punishment as it breaches the country’s constitution.
In a statement Wednesday, the PDP’s deputy secretary general Tongai Matutu said it is inhumane for death-row inmates to await their fate for as long as two decades.
“The PDP calls for the immediate abolition of the death penalty in the country as it is totally inhumane, degrading and against the international best practices,” he said.
“Capital punishment is in breach of the country’s Constitution, which guarantees and protects the right to life for every citizen.
“As PDP, our call comes when they are 117 convicted inmates on the death row in Zimbabwe who are facing death and are reported to be being subjected to physical and psychological torture.”
He was referring to media reports that 17 death-row inmates have taken government to court demanding that capital punishment be removed from the country’s statutes and a review of their sentences.
Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution in 2012 in which the death penalty is qualified and can now be administered to women and people above 70 years old or on a convict who would have committed the crime before they turned 21.
Matutu said some of these condemned prisoners have been “waiting for the hangman for between three and 21 years living under squalor at Harare Central Prison or Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where they are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours every day”.
“They are living a life without hope, alienation and vilification and the prison for them has become a prison within a prison. Some of these condemned prisoners have gone insane or are terminally ill,” the former Masvingo Urban lawmaker said.
“As the PDP we are fully behind the constitutional challenge that has been brought to the Constitutional Court by 17 prisoners who are on death row seeking review of their sentences and that they are allowed to go for retrial.
“It is within their constitutional mandate to approach the Constitutional Court as any aggrieved person has a right to approach the courts.”
“However, as PDP we are aware of the heinous crimes that prisoners facing murder charges would have committed but the act of hanging an accused person is barbaric and outdated and Zimbabwe should follow international standards and the solution is to abolish the death penalty.”
The PDP, whose leader Tendai Biti is legal representative for two human rights activists seeking a Constitutional Court order to compel President Robert Mugabe to set up an independent complaints mechanism to investigate military excesses, said it supported the challenge.
“Zimbabwe’s security forces have a dark history when it comes to violations of citizens’ rights and various case have been recorded such as the Gukurahundi massacres in southern Zimbabwe soon after independence …
” … the murder of student activist Batanai Hadzidzi, the slaughter of hundreds of opposition activists like Tonderai Ndira and others, the abduction and torture of human rights defender Jestina Mukoko and the general heavy handedness of the police is crushing peaceful demonstrations which has become a norm in this country,” the party said.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record as saying capital punishment will not be implemented under his watch. Mnangagwa who survived the hangman’s noose during the Rhodesian era doubles up as Justice Minister.