United against capital punishment

FOR 13 years, Zimbabwe has been without a hangman.

More than 50 people applied for the job last year but the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services is still to fill the post.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is strongly opposed to capital punishment, but the law keeps the death sentence on the statutes even though the last execution came back in 2005.

The 2013 Constitution-making process indicated the majority of Zimbabweans support the death penalty, but there is significant and vocal opposition to it – not least from President Mnangagwa who himself narrowly escaped capital punishment at the hands of colonial authorities during his youth.

Even religious groups hold divergent views on the death penalty.

Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe leader Bishop Johannes Ndanga saya his organisation is opposed to the death sentence.

“In some cases one can be wrongfully convicted and hanged if he is sentenced to death. In such circumstances, that cannot be reversed … Someone may be innocent and be wrongly convicted and die,” he argues.

“Some families may be tormented by the spirit of someone who was wrongfully executed. The death penalty has no reversal or appeal: once one is dead, he is gone for good. Therefore, we say no to the death penalty.”

Bishop Ndanga says the biblical “eye for an eye principle” was discared in the New Testament; adding that the death sentence is an attack on human dignity.

“When Jesus came, the Mosaic law which provided for an eye for an eye was changed. In the New Testament, there is no provision for killing for whatever reason,” says Bishop Ndanga.

Traditionalist Sekuru Calista Magorimbo is also opposed to the death penalty.

“In (African Traditional Religion), we believe in avenging spirits or mweya wengozi and as such there is no justification for killing. If someone kills a human being, there are consequences. So it’s not easy even for the hangman.

“It’s a tricky situation. Being a hangman, is a job but killing is killing. Someone will have blood on their hands.”

Sekuru Magorimbo goes on: “Killing attracts ngozi and this is regardless of the circumstances. The surviving family members are haunted by the avenging spirit. So the death penalty can cause problems for families; hence we say no to the death sentence. We are Africans and these avenging spirits can always get to us.”

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