By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
11 February 2014
Two women, whom Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to remain on death-row, will ‘soon’ be replying to the justice minister’s opposition to their court application seeking a change to their sentences.
Rosemary Khumalo and Shylet Sibanda are seeking a Constitutional Court order to have their sentences set aside and substituted with appropriate sentences, in line with the new constitution.
Zimbabwe’s new Constitution prohibits the imposition of the death penalty on all women, as well as on men under 21 at the time of the crime. Also spared are those over 70.
Sibanda and Khumalo were sentenced to death in two separate cases and both of them are awaiting execution at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
But it emerged last week that Mnangagwa opposed a court application by the two death row inmates. Chiedza Simbo from the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, the representatives of the two women, told SW Radio Africa that they will be replying to Mnangagwa’s opposition ‘as soon as possible’.
Simbo said Mnangagwa is arguing that the two should seek presidential pardon while the government works on aligning other laws with the new Constitution. Simbo said her clients will argue that in terms of the Constitution, presidential pardon applies only to men and not to women.
Although the new constitution was adopted almost a year ago, the laws have yet to be aligned with it, which has led some observers to question whether the government is serious about bringing in the new constitution. This lack of alignment of laws is also routinely creating problems such as in the case of the two women.
Mnangagwa’s latest move will also come as a surprise to many. Only last year he threw his weight behind the abolition of the death penalty. He told activists at the Anti-Death penalty march that he would speak against the death penalty ‘no matter where I am’.