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Nimrod Muchaudzani

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has welcomed a report in support of the abolition of the death penalty.

The report, compiled by the The Death Penalty Project in conjunction with Veritas, and titled “Time to abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe: Exploring the views of its opinion leaders”, got the backing of the President, a long time proponent for the abolishment of capital punishment, having himself escaped it by a technicality during Ian Smith’s rule.

“I believe (the death penalty) to be a flagrant violation of the right to life and dignity.

“I welcome this report, which shows that almost all Zimbabwean opinion formers are of the same mind,” the President said in his foreword to the report.

However, while 90 percent of the opinion leaders interviewed supported that the death penalty be blotted, the report revealed serious reservations about the justice system.

“The main finding indicates that 90% of those interviewed supported abolition of the death penalty,” the report stated.

In an indictment of the justice system, 64 percent of the interviewees did not trust the criminal justice system to “prevent miscarriages of justice.”

The report also revealed that of those opinion leaders, 60 percent believed that innocent people have been sentenced to death, with 79 percent believing that wrongful convictions occur.

The Death Penalty Project, a legal action charity based in London, drew its 42 opinion leaders for the survey from among politicians, academia, legal practitioners and war veterans among others.

The study built on the 2018 survey which was commissioned after the country had gone for more than a decade without an execution.

Also notable in the report is the opinion that even in its execution, the death penalty does not deter violent crimes.

The report said the country was ready to abolish the death sentence.

Parvais Jabbar, co-executive director of the project said:
“The findings in this report, together with our 2018 report on public attitudes, indicate that Zimbabwe as a country, is ready to end capital punishment.”

“The last execution in Zimbabwe was in 2005 – there can be no rationale for its continued retention,” Jabbar explained in support.

Director of Veritas, Val Ingham-Thorpe, concurred, adding that opinion shapers believed an Act of Parliament would be the best way to do away with capital punishment.

“Most opinion formers believe that an Act of Parliament would be the best way forward to remove the death penalty, and as Parliament continues to debate this issue, l hope that a Bill can be introduced to end this practice without further delay,” Ingham-Thorpe said.

Neighbours South Africa and Mozambique have abolished capital punishment, while Botswana remains the only Southern African state still practising it, albeit in fewer numbers.

In 2018 and 2020 President Mnangagwa commuted a number of death sentences for prisoners who had been on the death list for more than 10 years.