Harare — On Wednesday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe called for the return of the death penalty, after more than 50 people applied for the vacant position of hangman.
Capital punishment is on the statute book in Zimbabwe, but no one has been executed since 2005 when the country’s last hangman retired. "I think, let’s restore the death penalty," Mugabe said in the capital Harare at the burial of a veteran of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle.
Mugabe, 93, said he had been shocked by the number of recent murders in Zimbabwe after receiving a crime report from the police chief, though he gave no further details.
"People are playing with death by killing each other," he said. "Is this why we liberated this country? We want this country to be a peaceful and happy nation, not a country with people who kill each other."
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have often called on Zimbabwe, which has 92 inmates on death row, to permanently abolish capital punishment. The country’s 2013 constitution exempts all women from the hangman’s noose, as well as men under 18 and over 69 years of age.
Zimbabwe, which has an unemployment rate of more than 90%, announced last month that it received more than 50 applications from people wanting to become the country’s hangman. Justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza said at the time that the response had been "overwhelming".