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Government to institute public consultations over scrapping death penalty

Government is set to institute public consultations in order to determine whether the death penalty should be struck off from the statute books.

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Zimbabwe but despite its legality, Zimbabwe has not carried out any executions since 2005.

In a statement, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs with the support from Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) and the Embassy of Switzerland said it is in the process of drafting a death penalty position in Zimbabwe and they have put plans in place for public consultations.

“After convening a High Level Consultative meeting on the subject matter to inform policy formulation and law reform agenda, several recommendations were proffered in the meeting. One major reason highlighted was to amass public opinion on the subject matter.

“Against this backdrop, the Ministry shall hold consultations at grassroots level in March 2023 across the country’s provinces.

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“Additionally, the Ministry will conduct preliminary Training of Trainers with Case Care Workers, Village Health Workers and Youth Officers in anticipation of the actual consultations to capacitate the cadres on mobilisation of participants ahead of the consultations.

“The aim is to capacitate the cadres on mobilisation of participants ahead of the actual consultations to obtain a clear and unbiased representation of the community,” read the statement.

In January 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that he ‘wholeheartedly’ agrees that the death penalty constituted an affront to human dignity.

This was not entirely unexpected from a man who was himself on death row during Zimbabwe’s independent struggle.

In March 2018, he commuted to life imprisonment the sentences of prisoners who had been on death row for more than 10 years.

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, has similarly denounced the death penalty.

Between 1980 and 2001 the government hung 76 people and the death penalty remains a key element of Zimbabwe’s Penal Statutes.

Even though Zimbabwe last hung a prisoner on 22 July 2005, the courts continue to sentence people to death.

In 2018, the courts reportedly sentenced five people to death and at least 81 prisoners remain on death row.