On 10 October every year the international community, including Zambia, commemorates the World Day Against the Death Penalty that aims at raising awareness on the need to abolish the death penalty worldwide.
A week later, on 18 October 2022, Zambia also celebrated the National Day of Prayer and Reconciliation that came amidst the intensified calls for the abolition of the death penalty over which the Republican President, Hakainde Hichilema, has strongly spoken against alongside three of the four major Church Mother Bodies in the country.
The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ), and the Independent Churches of Zambia (ICZ) apart from the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ), have all joined calls for the abolition of the death penalty besides national human rights defenders such as the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISCCA) and others.
Despite the defacto moratorium that was declared by the third Republican President, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, SC, (late) after the last execution in Zambia carried out in January 1997 under the reign of second Republican President Frederick Chiluba.
All subsequent Presidents through up to the incumbent, H.E President Hakainde Hichilema, have never signed any executions but the death penalty still remains on Zambia’s Law Statutes
Maintaining the death penalty has not only been embarrassing in a Christian Nation like Zambia where the word Christian appears in the opening introduction of the country’s amended Constitution but has also created a dent on the National Day of Prayers, Fasting, Reconciliation and Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation because vengeance in a Christian Nation belongs to God and not any other person.
The death penalty contravenes human rights and the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments and all right thinking members of society need to understand that there is no rehabilitation in the grave contrary to the Correctional Act No. 37, which emphasizes corrections or rehabilitation.
In country after country, the death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor or against racial or ethnic minorities. It is used as tool of political repression and whether inmates are guilty or innocent, their lives are lost to a system of justice that values retribution over rehabilitation and has to be abolished.
Dr. Godfrey Malembeka