Zimbabwe’s search for a hangman may finally be over, 10 years after the last hangman retired. There had been no one willing to fill the post, as locals view the job as "demeaning", according to a report.
But one gentleman from Chivhu, some 143km south of the capital Harare, Alfred Mashamba, is proverbially dying to take up the job as the country’s hangman.
Mashamba does not mince his words and he sounds like a man getting impatient over the issue. “I guarantee, I will diligently execute my duties,” he vowed in an interview at his plot at Camel Gate Farm, some 40km south-west of Chivhu. “If you have lost someone dear to you because of murder, someone who the whole family looked up to, then you will understand my decision,” said the soft-spoken 47-year-old.
The southern Africa country has been struggling to fill the post of hangman since 2005, leading inmates on death row to launch an application challenging capital punishment in the constitutional court.
Despite the country having an estimated unemployment rate of 85%, it was difficult to find a suitable candidate to administer the death penalty to inmates who have been waiting between four and 18 years.
"No one is willing to take up the post as most people view it as demeaning," chief law officer at the prosecutor’s office, Olivia Zvedi, said. She maintained however that this did not mean the inmates' sentences should be changed, adding that the delay was also not a violation of their constitutional right.
But Mashamba has come forward and thrown down the gauntlet. Some may ask, is this man losing his senses or what?
Mushamba’s story is simple and straight to the point. As a young boy in a family of eight, his mother fell ill. The situation forced his father to drop out of work to take care of the ailing wife, leaving the father’s older brother, Phenias, who was working at the National Railways of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo to fend for the family.
“In 1998 Phenias was murdered on his way home from work. In 2012 my young brother Charles was also murdered and some of his body parts were removed. The assailants were never found,” Mushamba said. “Last year, my niece was raped and murdered in Mvuma after she had gone to sell fresh milk to fend for her family.”
“Because of these murders, I do not feel any remorse for people who commit heinous crimes and would have been seen by the courts as unfit to be in society.” Although he has managed to build his homestead and rear some livestock, Mr Mashamba believes the murderers of these close family members have destroyed his dreams.
Zimbabwe’s last hangman quit the post in 2005 after hanging two notorious armed criminals, Edgar Masendeke and Stephen Chidhumo.
While Mashamba is ready to take up the post as a hangman, his wishes may never come true as government is considering scrapping the death sentence from Zimbabwe’s constitution. However, it looks as if some Zimbabweans are still in support of the death sentence.
Under the new constitution, women and persons under the age of the 21 are not eligible for death gallows.
In January, 16 death row inmates challenged their pending executions on the basis that they had overstayed on the death row and that the current legal framework does not allow anyone to be hanged. The inmates have spent between four and 18 years awaiting their fate and argue that Section 48 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to life. Fourteen of the inmates want the court to remove them from death row and commute their sentences to life imprisonment.
Mashamba, however, feels that to convert the sentences to life in prison would be a waste of resources because “these people will be fed and clothed by the government all their lives. Their food rations should be given to other more deserving people like widows and orphans who cannot fend for themselves. Murderers should be hanged.
“If the post does not require college qualifications, I will be honoured to be selected. I just need a few instructions on how to tie the noose, otherwise everything else comes naturally. I have the guts and I do not forgive easily. I can keep a grudge for 30 years and I believe that is one advantage I have over other people.”
He said he has no misgivings with the Christian view that no one has a right to kill another human being, or the traditionalists' view that the death penalty is against the Zimbabwean culture. “It’s un-African,” the traditionalists allege. “Well, whatever the Christians are saying and whatever the views of traditionalists, I am is determined to take up the job and all I need are a few instructions on how to tie the noose,” Mashamba said.