Death Penalty Abolishment Bill to pass Parly scrutiny

THE Parliamentary Legal Committee is set to consider proposed amendments to the Death Penalty Abolishment Bill after it had initially issued an adverse report to the proposed law that was brought to Parliament as a private members Bill.

The new amendments are expected to bring back on course the Bill which has since been endorsed by Cabinet as progressive legislation.

PLC is a committee of Parliament mandated by the Constitution to scrutinise all Bills and statutory instruments brought before the legislative House to ensure they are consistent with the Constitution.

In an interview yesterday, PLC chairperson, Cde Itayi Ndudzo, said Dzivarasekwa MP, Mr Edwin Mushoriwa, who is steering the Bill, had brought before the House some amendments that sought to accommodate concerns expressed by his committee.

“Consequent to the presentation of the adverse report in Parliament and the debate that ensued, Hon Mushoriwa duly submitted proposed amendments to his Bill which seek to address the concerns of the PLC. The PLC will be meeting on Wednesday to consider the proposed amendments. You will be advised of the outcome of our deliberations,” said Cde Ndudzo who is Hwedza North legislator.

Mr Mushoriwa confirmed that he had submitted some amendments to the Bill.

“The Bill is on course and hopefully when Parliament resumes sitting on March 6, business on the Bill will resume. Amendments will be introduced in the committee stage,” he said.

Last week, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the Bill was on course despite the adverse report that it had received. Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said they did not expect the PLC adverse report to stall the movement of the Bill given that Cabinet had already adopted a decision to support it.

He said there will be engagement of all stakeholders to ensure that the Bill proceeds to its finality.

In presenting the Adverse Report in the National Assembly, Cde Ndudzo said the PLC felt that the Constitution allowed the death penalty for aggravated murder by an adult and so abolishing the death penalty requires a Constitutional amendment.

On the other hand, those supporting the Bill argue that the Constitution allows Parliament to pass a law imposing a death penalty in aggravating circumstances, but does not compel Parliament to do so, thus the Bill is simply a proposed law where Parliament declines to take up the option.

Cde Ndudzo said they felt that its enactment contravened Section (2) and Section 48 (2) of the Constitution in that it sought to abolish what has been permitted by the Constitution.

“It is inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of Section 48 (2) which is permissive to a death penalty law being enacted. Section 328 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe defines a Constitutional Bill as a Bill that seeks to amend the Constitution,” said Cde Ndudzo.

“Subsection (2) further states that an Act of Parliament that amends the Constitution must do so in express terms. The import of the Death Penalty Abolition Bill seeks to amend provisions of the Constitution, in particular Section 48 (2) of the Constitution. The Bill is not a Constitutional Bill as it does not expressly state that it seeks to amend the Constitution.

“Therefore, the proposed Bill takes away the permissive intention of the Constitution to have a death penalty and in any case, if any amendment is to be proposed on the death penalty, it is our considered opinion that it has to be introduced as a Constitutional Amendment Bill.”

Commenting on the PLC report in the National Assembly last week, Mr Mushoriwa said he did not agree with their observations.

He said Section 48 of the Constitution seeks to protect the right to life which is what his Bill seeks to achieve.

“The second issue is that if you read Section 48 (2), it says a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances,” said Mr Mushoriwa.

“The key word there is ‘may’. It is not saying a law must. What has happened, Honourable Chair, is that the death penalty is not a creation of the Constitution, but what has happened is that the framers of the 2013 Constitution gave that power to the people of Zimbabwe and to their Parliament to either make a law or not to make a law that introduces a death penalty.”


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