Rosemary Margaret Khumalo, a female death row inmate, died of natural causes on Tuesday at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. Khumalo, 59, was on death row for the past 15 years.
Chief superintendent Elizabeth Banda, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson, confirmed the death yesterday.
“She died of natural causes. She had a history of high blood pressure and we all know that this is a silent killer. However, her body was sent for post-mortem to determine the exact cause of death,” Banda said.
Khumalo was sentenced to death after committing murder. She was incarcerated at Chikurubi Prison in 1999, where she was held, awaiting execution.
Banda said Khumalo would be buried at Chikurubi Prison graveyard like all the other condemned prisoners.
The death of Khumalo leaves only one woman on death row, Shylet Sibanda. She was sentenced to death after committing murder in 2010. She has been on death row since then.
Chiedza Simbo, director with the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), which has been campaigning to spare the women’s hanging, said Khumalo died defending her right to life.
The organisation represented Khumalo and Sibanda last year in a bid to remove them from death row in line with the new Constitution which states that women cannot be executed.
“It is with immense sadness that ZWLA celebrates the role Rosemary Margaret Khumalo played in defending the rights of women embodied in the new Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Simbo said.
She said Khumalo believed that the immediate consequence was that the sentence of death imposed on her by the trial court and upheld by the Supreme Court could no longer be lawfully carried out.
She pleaded with the Constitutional Court to ensure that the minister of Justice, the Prosecutor General and the Attorney General would ensure that she is brought before a competent court which would set aside the sentence of death imposed on her and substitute it with a new sentence, but she died still trying.
Simbo urged the government to ensure that all laws imposing a death sentence on women were amended and aligned with the provisions of the new Constitution.
Rita Nyamupinga, director of the Female Prisoners Support Trust (Femprist) said it was unfair to keep Khumalo on death row for 15 years without granting her clemency or her judgment of death.
“Fifteen years were too much for her, they took a toll on her health. She suffered from High Blood Pressure and ulcers. We understand that there was no hangman for some time but her case needed to be reviewed from time to time to make sure that she could not suffer,” Nyamupinga said.