Columnists Features

Pardoning of all death row jailbirds historical for President Lungu


I FEEL the sense of relief for a prisoner who was waiting to be hanged but is now free. I believe such a prisoner jumped to the sky to celebrate this relief.
There is nothing exciting than the good news of forgiveness especially when the mercies of the Lord visit you and set you free from captivity.
The recent reports that President Edgar Lungu had pardoned all the 332 death row inmates and commuted their death sentences to life sentences should be applauded by all Zambians.
The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation reported that President Lungu had commuted death sentences to life imprisonment of all the 332 inmates at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe.
President Lungu becomes the second Zambian President to forgive all death row prisoners. President Levy Mwanawasa also refused to sign a death penalty as long as he remained in office.
To demonstrate his rejection of the death penalty, President Mwanawasa commuted the death sentences of 46 rebel soldiers, convicted of treason after a foiled coup plot in 1997, to long prison terms.
This decision that the President took, calls for the need to abolish the death sentence in Zambia.
Death sentence in Zambia should be abolished. This is because it serves no purpose if the people who were charged with the responsibility were afraid to take it.
After President Chiluba signed the execution of prisoners in 1997 all the presidents after he refused to sign the death penalty because they all argued that it’s only God who was allowed to take a person’s life.
This allowed the number of death row prisoners to increase resulting in congestion in the holding cells.
So what President Lungu has done is commendable and it calls for the abolishment of death penalty in Zambia. There are many reasons why death penalty should be abolished.
Moreover, studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime anymore than long prison sentences.
Amnesty International reports that as of the end of 2013, more than two-thirds of all countries have abolished death penalty. According to Amnesty International’s 2014 report on death penalties, in 2013, at least 778 executions were reported in 22 countries.
With at least 369 executions in the year, Iran topped the list, followed by Iraq (169+), Saudi Arabia (79+), USA (39) and Somalia (34).
The global executions figure does not include China which is believed to have been executing thousands of convicts.
Supporters of the death penalty often argue that retribution for violent crimes as being instrumental in justice. However, several studies have show that taking the life of another human being through capital punishment only perpetuates a cycle of violence. Furthermore, other studies have shown that flaws in our justice system has led to innocent being prosecuted, the guilty being set free, and a plethora of other biases being present during capital punishment cases.
Many arguments for the death penalty are based on retribution for the victim of a murder as well as the victim’s family and friends. The desire for revenge is understandable. But enforcement of the death penalty denies the opportunity for rehabilitation.
Many individuals who are charged with crimes that can entail capital punishment are mentally and emotionally unstable. These characteristics call for a movement towards rehabilitation rather than execution.
So life in prison is punishment enough. Life imprisonment is certainly a deterrent. In fact, it may be worse than death itself. Life in prison allows for rehabilitation, whereas death is final.
Therefore, I appeal to President Lungu also to pardon all pickpockets and reduce their sentences to community sentences. This move will help the prison service to decongest the prisons.
Lastly, I end by congratulating Zambia Prisons Service commissioner-general Percy Chato and his team for working extremely hard to ensure that Zambia Prisons Service receives the attention it deserves.
Also congratulations go to the Zambian Prison Service on the first appointment of their first commissioner-general.
The author is President for Zambian Society for Public Administration and Society for Family Business.

Facebook Feed