Traditional leaders in Zimbabwe have added their voice on the debate on capital punishment, urging the government to abolish the death penalty.
The chiefs argue that the death penalty is not in line with the country’s traditional and cultural beliefs, the Herald reported. Human rights groups have also been campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty.
The debate comes at a time where more than a dozen inmates on death row have submitted a plea to the country’s constitutional court arguing that their death sentences are unconstitutional. The inmates’ plea is premised on the country’s constitution, which guarantee citizens a right to life, human dignity, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
Section 48, subsection (1) guarantees the right to life but subsection (2) paradoxically permits, “the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances”.
The inmates have spent years on death row and they have been fighting to have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
While there have been new death sentences in the country in the past few years, the punishment has not been used in practice, owing to a number of reasons. The last execution occurred in July 2005. The country has reportedly failed to find a hangman over the years.
Capital punishment remains a controversial issue on the continent, where 36 countries still have the death penalty, and 11 of the countries currently execute people.