The government of Zimbabwe has approved a bill that legally ends the death penalty. If approved by the country’s parliament, this decision will automatically convert all existing capital punishment sentences to life imprisonment terms.
Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry has stated that new legislation was introduced following nationwide consultations regarding the private member-sponsored bill that was introduced in the National Assembly last year.
According to the ministry’s statement, the new law is anticipated to impose extended sentences in a manner that upholds the right to life. Life sentences may be attracted in cases involving aggravating circumstances.
Under the country’s current constitution, judges in Zimbabwe can now sentence male murderers aged 21 to 70 to death – a practice inherited from the British colonial rule.
Government data indicates that there are currently 62 individuals awaiting execution. Zimbabwe has executed 79 people since gaining independence from Britain in 1980. The most recent execution took place in 2005, and Zimbabwe will soon join seven other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in abolishing the death penalty.
In 1965, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is the current President of Zimbabwe, himself faced a death sentence for his alleged involvement in a train bombing during the country’s fight for independence. However, his sentence was commuted after his lawyer argued that he was ‘underage’ at the time. Since then, Mnangagwa has become a strong supporter of abolishing capital punishment, denouncing it as a clear violation of the fundamental rights to life and dignity.
The death penalty has been abolished in 29 African countries up to this point. In the previous year, Ghana became the latest country on the continent to ban the death penalty, joining Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, and Chad in outlawing the punishment that originated during the colonial era.
In the past three years, Botswana, Egypt, Somalia, and South Sudan, as identified by the Death Penalty Project, a Non-Governmental Organization specializing in legal action, have conducted executions, as per their reports.