Tendai Biti Fights Death Penalty at Constitutional Court

People’s Democratic Party leader and lawyer Tendai Biti is challenging the constitutionality of capital punishment several months after he appeared before the same court arguing for sentences of death row inmates to be commuted to life in prison.

Tendai Biti
Tendai Biti

Biti confirmed that the Constitutional Court will hear the application this month.

“This case is now set down in the Constitutional Court on September 28 and we are demanding an end to the death penalty,” Biti said.

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Many human rights groups and lawyers, among them Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc), were looking forward to the hearing.

“Case coming up arguing death penalty is unconstitutional under new Constitution — irrespective of its prior legality,” Salc tweeted.

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In January when he appeared before the same court on behalf of 15 inmates on death row at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, Biti argued that their sentences be commuted to life in prison.

Some of the inmates have been on death row for the past 18 years. Zimbabwe last executed prisoners in 2005.

Notorious robbers Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke were among the last inmates hanged at Chikurubi.

Some in the government, among them Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, were openly against capital punishment having escaped such a sentence by a whisker during the liberation struggle.

Amnesty International is also on record urging Zimbabwe to completely do away with the death penalty.

Under the new Constitution, the death sentence can be handed down only to male offenders between the ages of 21 and 70 and only in cases of aggravated murder.

Biti has of late been handling human rights cases and recently won an application against child marriages in the Constitutional Court.-AMH