February 7, 2024

Zimbabwe’s government backs abolition of death penalty

Zimbabwe’s government backs abolition of death penalty

Zimbabwe moved to abolish the death penalty on Tuesday, as the government backed legislation to do away with capital punishment nearly two decades after the last execution.

The southern African country has not had a hangman since 2005, but men found guilty of aggravated murder can still be sentenced to death. Dozens of convicts are currently on death row.

“Cabinet approved the abolition of the death penalty,” Information Minister Jenfan Muswere said in a statement, adding that after holding countrywide consultations, the government decided to support a new law to end the practice.

“In view of the need to retain the deterrent element in sentencing murderers, it is expected that the new law will impose lengthy sentences without violating the right to life,” said Muswere.

In the case of murders involving “aggravating circumstances”, convicts could face “life sentences”, he added.

It was not immediately clear when parliament, where the ruling ZANU-PF party holds a large majority, will vote on the legislation.

According to official figures, 79 people have been executed in Zimbabwe since the country’s independence from British colonial rule in 1980.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 81, has been a vocal opponent of capital punishment since he was sentenced to death in the 1960s for blowing up a train during the guerrilla war for independence. The sentence was later commuted.

In 2022, some 87 countries still had the death penalty, but only 52 imposed death sentences and about 20 executed them, according to Amnesty International.