THE 92 prisoners on death row in Zimbabwe will not be executed, as the country’s leadership is convinced that it is only God who has the right to take away life, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
The death penalty remains in the Constitution after Zimbabweans voted for its retention during consultations that led to the drafting of the new home grown Constitution.
Addressing Justice Ministers from across the world attending a conference on the abolition of the death penalty in Rome, Italy on Tuesday, Vice President Mnangagwa said the death penalty was a remnant of colonial laws that ought to be scrapped.
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VP Mnangagwa oversees the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“Historically under the Munhumutapa Empire we did not have the death penalty. It came with the British. They introduced nine crimes that attracted the death penalty. For 100 years they did not hang any British criminals but the African people,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He said the number of crimes attracting death penalty had been whittled down to only treason and murder under aggravated circumstances.
Zimbabwe has also shown its willingness to do away with capital punishment as evidenced by the removal of women, persons aged below 21 and above 71 from the death penalty.
“We agreed as leadership that we do not have the right to take away life. It is the responsibility of the Maker,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He narrated how he escaped the death penalty under the Ian Smith regime when he was spared the hangman’s noose on account of young age.
VP Mnangagwa said the spirit of revenge must be replaced with that of love, as an eye for an eye makes the world blind.
“We have 92 inmates on death row, we are not going to execute them,” he said. “We will reach a decision on whether we should retain the death penalty as leaders.”
The conference brought together Justice Ministers from all over the world to find common ground for the promotion of elimination of capital punishment.
The conference was organised by a Rome based Catholic organisation– Sant Egidio.
The organisation is renowned for brokering peace talks that ended the Mozambican civil war which killed thousands.
During his visit VP Mnangagwa met the Italian President Sergio Mattarella and senior officials from foreign affairs.
The Italians are understood to have pledged to strengthen bilateral and economic cooperation between Harare and Rome.
Italy is a member of the European Union, but the administration in Rome has not gone out of its way to punish Zimbabwe in a manner shown by other members of the bloc.
VP Mnangagwa returned home yesterday evening.
- The Herald