ZIMBABWE – Cabinet will decide on the fate of 74 male inmates who are languishing in prison awaiting execution, Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said.
In an interview, Minister Chinamasa said if the new constitution was adopted, Cabinet would deliberate on every case of all the people on death row despite the judgments that would have been passed in the courts.
Seventy six inmates, two of them females, are awaiting execution and the State recently announced that the hangman’s post had been filled.
If the constitution comes into effect, the two women would automatically escape the death penalty as the new charter states that the penalty must not be imposed or carried out on a woman. Minister Chinamasa said no one would be hanged without Cabinet deliberating on their case.
“If the new constitution is adopted, as usual after a sentence is passed the Minister of Justice will make recommendations and bring the inmate’s petition to Cabinet,” he said.
Cabinet will discuss each and every case and come up with recommendations and it is the Cabinet that decides if the power of clemency should be exercised in their favour. Minister Chinamasa said every inmate had a right to seek pardon or commutation of the penalty from the President.
The constitution provides that the death penalty would be imposed on murder committed in aggravating circumstances and style. However, that person has got a right to plead for clemency from the highest authority and that process can go through Cabinet up to the President, he said.
“As for the 76 inmates languishing in prison there was no way I, as the Minister of Justice, was going to recommend for their execution. We could have done that long back but I was going to seek for clemency,” said Minister Chinamasa.
According to the new supreme law, the death penalty must not be imposed on a person who was less than 21 years old when the offence was committed or who is more than 70 years old. Minister Chinamasa said the case of the two women was a foregone issue.
“We have agreed that women should be exempted from the death penalty and it means that the execution of the two women is a foregone issue,” he said. “They will not be hanged but this is not to say that they will be set free. They might get a life imprisonment.”
The hangman’s post has been vacant for the past 12 years as there were no takers. The new hangman, believed to be a Malawian, ended an eight-year search mid last year, with a backlog of 71 people on his hands.The waiting list has, however, increased since then.