Govt takes over Death Penalty Abolition Bill

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Govt takes over Death Penalty Abolition Bill 
Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter

Government is set to take over steering of the Death Penalty Abolition Bill, currently being sponsored by an individual legislator in Parliament as a Private Members Bill, as the Second Republic demonstrates commitment to abolish capital punishment.

This comes after the Parliament Legal Committee (PLC) withdrew an Adverse Report that it had initially issued after the mover of the Bill, Mr Edwin Mushoriwa (Dzivaresekwa Constituency), agreed to move amendments to address issues that had been raised.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told the National Assembly on Tuesday that after consultations with Mr Mushoriwa, coupled with a decision by Cabinet to abolish capital punishment, he will be steering the Bill in Parliament, while Mr Mushoriwa will still be allowed to make contributions to ensure that Parliament comes up with an improved product.

A Private Member’s Bill is brought to the House by an MP, who is not a Vice President, Minister or Deputy Minister and can deal with a variety of issues like family law, contracts, control of animals, but it cannot impose or alter taxes or impose financial obligations on the State.

It is a Bill “for the particular interest or benefit of any person or persons or bodies of persons as distinguished from a measure in the general public interest”.

In his contribution, Minister Ziyambi commended Mr Mushoriwa for bringing the Bill.

“I rise to thank Hon Mushoriwa for taking the initiative, as a Private Member, to initiate this process and the Hon Members in this 10th Parliament for rallying behind him.

“Madam Speaker, I think it is a second (time) to have a Bill that ordinarily must be sponsored by the Executive, to be first sponsored by a private member and have all the members in support.

“I believe that it lays ground work for closer collaboration in terms of nation building, in terms of telling each other that when there are issues that pertain to building our nation, let us have eyes or lenses that are able to remove things that  may be used by our detractors to allow us to fight each other and not focus on issues that will allow all of us to benefit,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“The Bill speaks to issues that His Excellency, the President and his Cabinet must be able to answer and because of that, when I do my second reading speech, I will then take over because some of the responses, when we are debating, will require that I answer on behalf of the Executive and Hon Mushoriwa will not be able to do that. So, I have agreed with him that he will also debate and support where he thinks that he may answer, but ultimately the responsibility to steer the Bill now rests with me.”

Minister Ziyambi said during deliberations in Cabinet on the Bill, President Mnangagwa gave a touching testimony of his experience when capital punishment was imposed on him by the Ian Smith regime for his role in the fight for the liberation of the country in the early 1960s.

“When I went to His Excellency and said we have this Private Bill, I want to bring it to Cabinet so that we put our heads together and say what is the policy direction — do we support it and Cabinet duly supported and in that meeting, His Excellency gave a very touching speech about his experiences on the death row,” he said.

“Madam Speaker, if I may share with the Honourable Members here. He actually indicated that when he was on death row, the responsibility to hang other death row inmates were on those that were on death row.

“They were ordered to go — you know at Harare Central Prison, there is a place where there is a nice lawn — beneath that lawn lies several comrades who were buried by fellow comrades who were on death row. When he said this, almost all of us in Cabinet were touched,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“He said because of a legal technicality in the law that prohibited minors from being hanged that saved him. Like what Hon. Mushoriwa said, I think all of us were saying; ‘thank God for the technicality’, we have a President who is telling us about the inhumane treatment that the comrades who are still buried at Harare Central Prison went through.

“I urge Hon. Members to support the removal of the sections in our statutes that allow for the death penalty to be executed. It is not a sentence, it is a penalty, you just take away somebody’s life. You cannot return the life,” said Minister Ziyambi.

Earlier on PLC chairperson, Cde Itayi Ndudzo said the committee had since resolved to withdraw an Adverse Report that it had issued against the Bill following discussions with Mr Mushoriwa and other stakeholders.

“In the circumstances, I have to advise the House that the adverse report issued by the Parliamentary Legal Committee is withdrawn and the Committee has proceeded to issue a non-adverse report,” he said.

Other Bills that were deliberated include the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) (Protection and Children and Young Persons) Amendment Bill seeks to raise the age of sexual consent from 16 to 18.

Parliament also dealt with the Administration of Estates Amendment Bill which seeks to provide for the autonomous administration of the Office of the Master of the High Court  to enable the office to better serve the people of Zimbabwe efficiently and in a decentralised manner.