via Mnangagwa wants death penalty abolished | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu 10 October 2013
Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa has thrown his weight behind the anti-death penalty campaign and pledged to push for the abolition of the capital punishment.
Mnangagwa, who is a death penalty survivor, was addressing activists after a march organized by Amnesty International Zimbabwe to mark the World’s Death Penalty Day in Harare.
Activists who were present quoted Mnangagwa saying he would ‘speak against the death penalty’ no matter ‘where I am’.
This development will have come as a surprise to many as the new constitution, which was adopted in March 2013, upholds the death penalty. Moreover Mnangagwa himself oversaw the implementation of capital punishment as Justice Minister between 1988 and 2000.
Amnesty International Zimbabwe confirmed the development to SW Radio Africa on Thursday and welcomed Mnanagagwa’s stance. According to Cousin Zilala, the Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa said the death penalty ‘should have been abolished long ago’.
Zilala said Mnangagwa told the marchers that during the outreach program when Zimbabwe was writing a new constitution ‘a slight majority was in favour of the death penalty and his personal view may not have overridden the view of the majority of the people.’
Zilala said his organization welcomed Mnangagwa’s stance and would seek to maximize on it to achieve its goal of having the death penalty abolished. Zilala said he did not take Mnanagagwa’s stance as part of what observers have identified as the ZANU PF government’s un-announced ploy to be conciliatory on many issues, as a way of gaining public support.
Zilala said Mnangagwa was being consistent, because of his personal history as he was himself saved from the hangman’s noose in 1965 after he was found guilty of helping others to blow up a train near Masvingo. As he was under 21 at the time Mnangagwa was not executed but sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Capital punishment has always been a divisive issue in Zimbabwe’s criminal justice system and was typically a bone of contention during the erstwhile Government of National Unity, with ZANU PF in favour of it against the MDCs, who pushed for its abolition.
These differences came to a head in February 2013 when the government announced that it had found a new hangman to fill the post which had been vacant since 2005. The MDCs, alongside Amnesty international, condemned the move at the time.
The new constitution outlaws the death penalty for all women, as well as men who were under 21 at the time of the crime and those over 70.