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Sunday, October 11, 1998 Published at 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK

World: Africa

Hangman wanted, no experience required

No-one in Swaziland wants the gallows job

The BBC's Johannesburg Correspondent, Greg Barrow, reports on an unusual vacant position in Swaziland's main prison.

It is a job that demands strength, bravery and curiously a classical education. No previous experience is required.

There is a vacancy for a hangman in Swaziland and the government of the tiny African kingdom has opened the field to applicants from all over the world after no locals stepped forward to take up the post.

According to the justice minister, Paul Kumalo, prospective hangmen and hangwomen have applied from as far away as Britain, Japan and Canada.

The job they are seeking has lain vacant since the 1980s when the last execution was carried out in Swaziland.

Eight await execution

Rising crime and a recent trend among Swazi judges to deliver death sentences has forced the government to reintroduce the practice of hanging criminals.

At least eight prisoners are reported to be on death row. Their sentences have failed to be carried out because no hangman is available to prepare the gallows.

Although applications for the post have flooded in from far flung places around the world it is most likely that the successful applicant will come from Swaziland's neighbour, South Africa.

President Nelson Mandela's government banned the death penalty after winning the country's first multi-racial elections in 1994 and there are probably more unemployed hangmen in South Africa than almost anywhere else in the world.

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