New Zimbabwe (London)

22 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Says Won't Sign Death Warrants

JUSTICE Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed he will not sign death warrants for the country's 97 death row prisoners saying he is opposed to the death sentence.

The country's new constitution provides for the death penalty but Mnangagwa said he believed the punishment was unfair.

"As we speak, we have 97 inmates who were sentenced to death by the court, but are still awaiting execution," Mnangagwa told a SADC lawyers conference in Victoria Falls on Friday.

"One of them is female, while 96 others are males. Fortunately, my signature as Justice Minister is required for them to be hanged and I am not giving it. That is why execution has not been done."

Mnangagwa backs an ongoing lobby for the abolition of the death penalty should be abolished.

"It (death penalty) should have been abolished a long time ago," the minister said last year.

"I know there are a lot of people ... who believe in death penalty; I don't! The difference between you and me is you have not been sentenced to death I have been sentenced to death so I know what I am talking about."

Mnangagwa was sentenced to death by the Smith regime after being arrested for involvement in the liberation struggle.

He was spared execution after his defence attorneys successfully pleaded that, at 21, he was under age and could not be executed.

Under the country's new constitution, women are no longer being sentenced to death and the only woman featuring on the death row would automatically be saved.

"The same Constitution saves offenders below 21 years and those above 70-years-old. This is a giant step in the fight against the death penalty," Mnangagwa said Friday.

However, Law Society of Zimbabwe president Josphat Tshuma said the death penalty provision in the constitution was vague adding judges were having challenges sentencing murder convicts.

"Death penalty in terms of the new Constitution can only be imposed under aggravating circumstances, but there is no provision that explains what the aggravating circumstances are," he said.

"The Constitution left it for the judges and the legislators to define the aggravating circumstances.

"We are requesting the minister to take the matter up so that Government speedily comes up with an Act of Parliament explaining the aggravating circumstances warranting death penalty."

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