via ConCourt to hear death row, life sentence constitutionality – NewsDay October 21, 2015
THE Constitutional Court (ConCourt) will today hear two matters in which prisoners on death row are challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty and life sentences.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The two cases were initiated by legal think-tank Veritas.
The matter of Ndlovu versus the Minister of Justice (case CCZ 50/15) involves two applicants who were convicted in separate cases of murder and sentenced to death in July 2002 and May 2012 respectively.
“The two applicants were convicted before the new Constitution came into operation,” Veritas said.
The think-tank noted that although the two were lawfully sentenced to death, the sentence now had to be set aside because the provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act under which they were sentenced are now inconsistent with Section 48 of the new Constitution.
“The provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, under which the condemned were tried and sentenced, are now invalid. The applicants’ sentences must therefore be commuted to life imprisonment,” Veritas said.
The second case of Makoni versus Commissioner-General of Prisons and Correctional Service and Another (CCZ 48/2015) involves a prisoner who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 1995 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Veritas said the applicant had already served 20 years of his sentence.
“He argues under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and the Prisons Act, prisoners serving sentences of life imprisonment are not entitled to be considered for parole or early release, and must serve ‘whole life’ sentences and be released from prison by death,” they said.
“However, he argues the Act violates Section 51 of the Constitution which guarantees human dignity, and Section 53, which protects against cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. Giving prisoners no hope of release, however good their behaviour in prison and however much they may have reformed, robs them of hope and crushes their dignity.”
Veritas said it was appropriate that the applicant be considered for parole.
Next week, the ConCourt will also hear death penalty case challenges by Chawira and 14 others versus the Minister of Justice and others (CCZ 47/2015) where the 15 will seek an order that their death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment as Section 53 of the Constitution protects everyone, including convicted prisoners, against torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.