THE case in which a Kalulushi charcoal burner raped a pregnant woman and bludgeoned her to death, effectively claiming two lives, including an unborn baby – has taken a new twist with one school of thought calling for the rapist’s blood while another feels the murderous rapist deserves to live.
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) says it is against the decision of Kitwe Judge Isaac Kamwendo to sentence to death the 46-year-old charcoal burner, who raped a pregnant woman before he bludgeoned her with an axe. The rapist has been identified as Innocent “sharp-shooter” Kunda.
HRC chairperson Pixie Yangailo said as much as the commission supports stiffer punishment for people who commit heinous crimes, it does not support the death penalty.
Ms Yangailo said in an interview yesterday that the court should have sentenced Kunda to life imprisonment with hard labour as opposed to sentencing him to death.
She believes no one has the right to take the life of another human being regardless of the circumstances.
“As a commission, we support stiffer punishment for people who commit serious crimes, but we do not support death penalty,” Ms Yangailo said, when asked about the rapist on death row.
Ms Yangailo said, “The right to life is dear to every human being and it is for this reason that the court should have given him an appropriate punishment such as life in prison with hard labour.”
But the Sharp Shooter’s sentence has attracted a different reaction from Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) vice president James Banda who described the reported crime as “barbaric and gruesome and must not go unpunished…the man must be punished to the full extent of Zambian law as stipulated in the books and in this case it’s the death penalty.”
Mr Banda said even though the LAZ had no official position on whether the death penalty must be upheld or taken out of the Zambian law statutes, as a lawyer, he feels that those who commit heinous crimes like rape and murder must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law even though he observed that sharp shooter can appeal the High Court decision if he feels he was unjustly sentenced.
On Tuesday, Judge Kamwendo sentenced Kunda, the sharp shooter to death by hanging for murdering Anne Chimfwembe in a crime that has attracted mixed feelings.
The Non-Governmental Organisation Co-ordinating Committee (NGOCC) has welcomed the sentence with NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale calling for stiff punishment for the charcoal burner.
Conversely, a social analyst Chomba Chellah said people who commit heinous crimes should hang and not live on honest taxpayers’ money after committing crimes against innocent women.
On February 3, 2010, the National Constitutional Conference upheld the death penalty clause, saying those who kill others should also lose their lives.
Article (34) states that a person shall not be deprived of life intentionally except in the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law in force of which that person has been convicted.
But subsequent Zambian heads of state starting from late Levy Mwanawasa to his successor Rupiah Banda have declined to sign any death warrant citing Christian values and it remains unclear which direction President Sata will take.
In the meantime, the convicted murderer may remain alive in a jail cell financed by taxpayer’s money until he dies of natural causes.