By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
There have been mixed ambivalents after human rights organisations ratcheted pressure on President Robert Mugabe to abolish the death penalty as a matter of urgency.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Day against the Death Penalty which Amnesty International Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum marked by inviting people to sign a petition for the abolition of the death penalty.
The two human rights civil society groups said Zimbabwe is among the few countries in the world that still has the death penalty.
“Throughout the world, and particularly in the continent of Africa, the death penalty is being abolished. The majority of African Union member states have legally abolished the death penalty or applied a de facto moratorium on capital punishment; only a minority of 17 States have retained the death penalty,” stated the human rights organizations.
In Zimbabwe, there has been no execution since 2005, but persons are still sentenced to death. Though the new constitution provides that females and men aged above 70 years are exempted, there are over a hundred prisoners languishing on “death row”, some for nearly 20 years.
The petition also castigates the death penalty as a colonial relic.
“The death penalty is not a traditional penalty but a colonial relic. Traditional customary law relied on restorative justice rather than retribution. By abolishing the death penalty Zimbabwe would be making a clear break with its colonial past, ”added the human rights watchdogs.
The petition argues that the death penalty is no deterrent to serious crimes as shown by researchers in many parts of the world and in that regard it becomes merely ‘cruel and inhumane’.
However, the petition has been received with mixed feelings by many citizens.
Posting on his Facebook timeline, journalist Robert Mukondiwa said that he strongly supports the death penalty.
“I am pro-death penalty. Something that I believe will not change in my lifetime. Sorry family” posted Mukondiwa.
Another scribe Conway Tutani also supports retaining the death penalty but for heinous crimes.
“My position on that is that the death sentence must be retained for the worst of the worst like sociopathic or psychopathic killers who target defenceless people, especially children.
“ People who take delight in killing others, who kill for the sake of it deserve capital punishment,” argued Tutani.
Tatiannah Machirori said the death penalty is a necessary evil to deter would-be murderers.
“If there was no death penalty, murderers will be many but we have seen that most of the people who commit horrendous murders end up committing suicide for fear of facing the hangman’s noose,” she said.
But some argued against saying the death penalty should be removed.
Xolisani Gwesela said death penalty has no place in this day and age.
“Death penalty indeed has no place in the new millennium,” he posted.
Philemon Jambaya said there should be other ways of punishing offenders and not resort to the death penalty.
“The death penalty is inhumane. We should have better ways of punishing or rehabilitating social misfits because no one has a right to take anyone’s life,” said Jambaya.