Zimbabwe moves to abolish colonial-era death penalty law
Zimbabwe’s cabinet has passed legislation abolishing the death penalty, which was inherited from British colonial rule. The move on Tuesday will commute all capital punishments to life imprisonment, should parliament approve it.
The decision comes after nationwide consultations on the private member-sponsored bill introduced in the National Assembly last year, according to a statement from the Information Ministry.
“It is expected that the new law will impose lengthy sentences without violating the right to life. The existence of aggravating circumstances may attract life sentences,” the ministry stated.
The Zimbabwean constitution currently authorizes judges to impose the death penalty on male murder convicts aged 21 to 70. According to government records, 62 inmates are presently on death row. Official figures show that Zimbabwe has executed 79 people since achieving internationally recognized independence from Britain in 1980. The country carried out its last execution in 2005 and will become the eighth member of regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to scrap the death penalty.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sentenced to death in 1965 for allegedly bombing a train during the independence struggle, has been an advocate for the abolition of capital punishment, describing it as a “flagrant violation” of the right to life and dignity.
So far, 29 African countries have abolished the death penalty. Last year, Ghana joined Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, and Chad as the continent’s most recent countries to outlaw the colonial-era punishment.
According to legal action NGO the Death Penalty Project, four African Union countries – Botswana, Egypt, Somalia, and South Sudan – have carried out executions in the last three years.