‘No plans to hang death row inmates’

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ZIMBABWE Prison Services (ZPS) deputy commissioner Agrey Machingauta said there are no plans to carry out any executions in the country and the ZPS hopes all 77 death row inmates get a reprieve.

Report by Wongai Zhangazha

Zimbabwe recently hired a hangman raising speculation that the country could be resuming executions, but Machingauta assured a ZPS stakeholders conference at Harare Central Prison a fortnight ago that no executions would be carried out “anytime soon”.

Zimbabwe currently has 77 inmates on death row, including two females.

“We have not carried executions for the past 12 years so we are in no hurry,” said Machingauta. “We actually hope that the 77 inmates will get their reprieve. We also stand guided by what Minister (of Justice Patrick) Chinamasa said that all death row cases will be decided by cabinet.”

About 78 people have been executed in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

The last executions were carried out on June 13 2003, when Stephen Chidhumo, Elias Chauke, William Mukurugunye and John Nyamazana were hanged.

The four had been convicted of murder without extenuating circumstances and their execution took place without any warning to their families.

Chinamasa recently said the appointment of a new hangman does not mean any of the death row inmates would be executed and government would instead push for the sentences to be commuted to life in prison.

The hangman’s job had been vacant and government had been struggling to find a replacement since the previous one retired in 2005 despite repeated adverts in the local press.

The draft constitution that would be tested in a referendum on March 16 retains the death penalty, but prohibits executions of women and anyone under the age of 21 years or over the age of 70 years.

ZPS commissioner retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi said prisons were holding 16 902 inmates.

He said only 587 of these were women and 124 were juveniles.

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