AT least 117 prisoners are on death row in Zimbabwe and no executions have been carried out for the past 12 years due to the unavailability of a hangman, the Constitutional Court heard recently. Zimbabweans are shunning the job. Appearing for 14 death row prisoners who are challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty despite spending lengthy periods in custody, Harare lawyer Tendai Biti said the number of condemned prisoners awaiting death stood at 117.
He said the automatic appeals in respect of some of the inmates had not been exercised owing to delays in the transcription of court records and the disappearance of some.
Biti said preparation of records was done on time only for those who paid the requisite fees. He claimed timeframes were not being respected for condemned prisoners who did not pay. “The system has abandoned them. If you don’t pay the fee for the preparation of the record, the timeframes will not be respected,” said Biti.
Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, who was part of the nine-member bench hearing the constitutional matter, questioned why the prisoners were not being executed.
Olivia Zvedi, a law officer in the AG’s Office, said government was still looking for a hangman. “There’s no hangman at the moment. The one who was there previously left.” Asked why they were not getting a new hangman, Zvedi said the job was not an easy one and people were shunning it.