V. THE DEATH PENALTY
While the Zambian government has adopted the language of support for human rights, the Chiluba administration has in reality taken several steps backward in human rights observance. On January 24, eight condemned prisoners at Mukobeko Maximum Prison were executed on the same day that President Chiluba pardoned 600 inmates, according to the January 27, 1997 edition of The Times of Zambia. 183
The Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) applauded President Chiluba for granting the prisoners amnesty. ZIMT President Alfred Zulu said releasing 600 prisoners from prisons to commemorate the opening ofparliament would positively affect the reform process of convicts. With the execution of the eight still secret at the time, Zulu called for the abolition of the death penalty.184
The first confirmation of the execution of the eight was carried in a front page article, "FTJ's secret executions" in the March 24 edition of The Post. In a statement issued two days earlier, a Catholic priest, Father Peter Henriot, said that President Chiluba had secretly signed an order for the execution of eight prisoners on death row at Mukobeko Maximum Prison earlier in the year. "We want to know. Who are these people. Let them tell us their age, sex, names and the crimes they committed," asked Father Henriot.
Citing sources at the Mukobeko Maximum Prison and the High Court for Zambia in Lusaka, The Post confirmed that President Chiluba had authorized the executions. Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Kalombo Mwansa, in commenting on the executions, appeared to accept that the government was under an obligation to bring about the abolition of the death penalty, while insisting that "this should be done by also ensuring that measures to satisfactorily protect and compensate victims of crime and abuse of power are progressively implemented as required by international law."185
As of this writing, neither the names of the eight or their alleged crimes have been officially released. But Human Rights Watch/Africa confirmed that they were executed on January 24, 1997, obtained the names and prison identification numbers of the eight, and identified the courts where they were sentenced and the crimes for which they were convicted. All of the executed prisoners had spent many years on death row-between ten and fifteen years in some cases. Notably, all of the condemned prisoners were sentenced to death during the Second Republic, years before the MMD government came to power in 1991. It is unclear why President Chiluba ordered their execution in January and whether any of the prisoners had any outstanding rights of appeal. The following is a list of the eight prisoners who were executed:
1. KBW/6/82 Nelson Ngundano.186
Sentenced to death on March 19, 1982 by the Livingstone High Court. Convicted of murder.
2. KBW/32/83 Robert Yulumbi
Sentenced to death September 26, 1983 by the Ndola High Court. Convicted of murder.
3. KBW/11/85 Denis Chisela Chembe
Sentenced to death April 29, 1985 by the Lusaka High Court. Convicted of murder.
4. KBW/14/85 David Kapanga
Sentenced to death June 21, 1985 in the Kitwe High Court. Convicted of murder and armed robbery.
5. KBW/07/87 Joseph Masaiti Chilanda
Sentenced to death August 15, 1987 in the Lusaka High Court. Convicted of murder.
6. KBW/20/87 Christopher Mwanza Oldfield
Sentenced to death August 15, 1987 by the Lusaka High Court. Convicted of murder.
7. KBW/11/88 John Gumbo
Sentenced to death January 21, 1988 by the Lusaka High Court. Convicted of murder.
8. KBW/10/90 Abraham Kasongo
Sentenced to death on June 5, 1990 by the Kasama High Court. Convicted of murder.
As of April 1, 1997, there were 127 prisoners on death row, one of whom is a woman, Joyce Kasongo, who was sentenced to death by the Ndola High Court and is held in isolated confinement in Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe. The High Court under the MMD-government has continued to sentence prisoners to death, although Human Rights Watch has not determined how many of the 127 death row inmates have been sentenced since 1991. Most recently, in April, Olivia Mpofwana, 32, of Mungule Village in Kabwe, was found guilty of strangling her two-year-old and dumping the body in a well and was sentenced to death.187
According to judges, their hands are tied by the law "Zambian law requires that anyone who is found guilty of murder should be sentenced to death and the Court has no discretion to rule otherwise,"188 Lusaka High Court Commissioner Anthony Ngangulu said after he sentenced two men convicted of murder to the death penalty. Condemned prisoners in Zambia are executed by hanging.
Human Rights Watch opposes the infliction of capital punishment in all cases: because of its inherent cruelty, because it is most often carried out in a discriminatory manner, and because the fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected innocent persons are sometimes executed-and such miscarriages of justice can never be corrected.183 ZNBC Radio Lusaka reported on January 24 at 1600 GMT: "President Chiluba has released 600 prisoners from various prisons throughout the country under the presidential amnesty. According to a statement released from Cabinet Office today and signed by Secretary to the Cabinet Aldridge Adamson, the prisoners will be formally released today. The prisoners walking into their freedom have been serving various sentences for different types of offenses, namely those of a minor nature." 184 The Times of Zambia, January 27, 1997, from a ZIMT statement of January 26. 185 The Post (Lusaka), March 24, 1997. 186 According to information obtained by Amnesty International, this prisoner had become senile and was unaware of what was happening to him. 187 The Post (Lusaka), April 25, 1997, "Death row Olivia's children speak out." 188 The Chronicle (Lusaka), January 10-13, 1997, "Courts should expedite justice."