Home » Judicial » ’S.A Safe Haven for Murderers’

Zimbabweans can commit murder with impunity and flee to South Africa and other countries that do not recognise the death penalty because such countries are refusing to extradite suspects for fear that they will be hanged upon conviction.

The National Prosecuting Authority is facing challenges bringing to trial murder suspects who skipped the border and got arrested by foreign police.

In South Africa, one suspect Joshua Dube, who is facing murder and rape charges has been held in prison since 2009.

South African authorities are threatening to release him because there is no undertaking from the Zimbabwean Government that the suspect will not be sentenced to death upon conviction.

South Africa does not recognise the death penalty in its statutes and the differences with Zimbabwean laws have created a dilemma for the NPA which approached the Constitutional Court seeking an undertaking that no death penalty would be imposed on such fugitives if extradited. South Africa refused to extradite Joshua Dube who allegedly committed armed robbery and rape before fleeing to that country where he was arrested in 2009.

Hopes by the NPA for the intervention faded last Thursday when Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku rejected the prosecution’s application for the courts to spare murder fugitives from capital punishment.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku described the application by the NPA as a waste of the court’s time.

NPA last year filed the application asking the court to make an undertaking that the fugitives will not be sentenced to death if extradited from countries that do not subscribe to the penalty.

Chief Registrar of Superior Courts Mr Munamato Mutevedzi in a letter dated March 12 this year, communicated to the NPA the decision of the Chief Justice.

“Your application was placed before the Honourable Chief Justice who considered it and commented that:

“It is not competent for the Constitutional Court to grant the order sought. Accordingly, there is no point in setting this matter down except to waste the court’s time.”

However, the Chief Justice did not give his reasons for declining to hear the case.

This means Zimbabwean murder suspect Dube, who is in South Africa, will now be released back to the streets of South Africa where the local police will neither arrest him nor assist in his apprehension.

The decision also means that South Africa and other countries that do not accept death penalty are now safe haven for Zimbabwean murder suspects.

Chief Law Officer Mr Chris Mutangadura said, in an affidavit he filed at the court, that in the absence of an undertaking from the Government to spare the suspects from death if extradited, it means murderers can easily escape justice by fleeing into South Africa.

At the same time, an undertaking to spare the suspects from death penalty will also make murderers flee to South Africa before being extradited on condition of non-imposition of capital punishment.

Dube, at the time of the filing of the application, was still in a South African prison where authorities were now threatening to set him free on the basis that Zimbabwe was not making the required undertaking that he would not be hanged.

A bid by the NPA to send the undertaking that it will not pray for a death penalty against Dube if he was extradited was rejected by South Africa on the basis that it was not binding on the courts of Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe has since refused to make such an undertaking on the basis of public policy.

The NPA wanted the undertakings to cover every extradition of murder suspects from countries that do not provide for death penalty. On December 10 2009, the Government formally requested for the extradition of Dube, but South Africa had been resisting the move in the absence of the undertaking against death penalty.

Chief Law officer Mr Chris Mutangadura urged the Constitutional Court to rule in the State’s favour to manage the crisis that faces the State with regards to the case.

He said there were several other pending extradition requests between Zimbabwe and South Africa and that the court had to make a ruling that helps curb heinous offences.

The Zimbabwean Constitution provides for death penalty to male murder convicts aged between 23 and 69, while women are exempted from the punishment.

Source : The Herald