The execution of Mooketsi Kgosibodiba by the Botswana Government this week in Gaborone, has opened old wounds and deepened public discourse on the death penalty in the country. On one hand, some observers and quite a considerable number of Batswana still believe in death penalty and take every opportunity to support the State to withhold it.
Such insists that the only deserving justice for murderers is to be executed as evidence by their notion and justification: “an eye for an eye.” However, speaking to Weekend Post this week, a renowned attorney who has done murder cases for years expressed his dissatisfaction against the latest development of killing by the State – despite calls to abolish the practice. He asserted to this publication that “this government is cruel… How does the State even find it fit and just normal to kill during the month of Jesus Christ? I find it interesting.”
Although regarded as a secular State, Botswana is predominantly Christian. The prominent lawyer expressed the sentiments following the latest death row casualty, 44 year old Kgosibodiba of Shashe-Semotswane Village who was killed by the State this week, in the early morning hours of Monday 2nd December 2019, at Gaborone Central Prison. Kgosibodiba was executed following the imposing of a death sentence on him by the Francistown High Court on the 14th December 2017, for the offence of murder.
The High Court convicted the now deceased for the murder of his employer Benjamin Makobela on 2nd February 2012 at Makobo village. He later appealed the judgement but was dismissed on the 27th July 2018, by the Court of Appeal. Subsequent to the inhuman effecting of capital punishment on Kgosibodiba, the Western countries accredited to Botswana moved swiftly to condemn Botswana for the action – once again – as they have always taken a stand and an opportunity to state their view.
The European Union Delegation, the EU Heads of Mission in Botswana and the Heads of Mission of Australia and Canada slammed the Botswana government for still maintaining the barbaric practice insisting that it is outdated. They asserted: “in light of the execution of Mr. Mooketsi Kgosibodiba, which took place on 2nd December 2019, the European Union, Australia and Canada reaffirm their strong opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances.”
They continued to point out that the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to deter criminal behavior and which represents a grave denial of human dignity and integrity while adding that any miscarriage of justice – which is inevitable in any legal system – is irreversible. The West further explained that death has no appeal, which is why most of countries in the world have stopped applying it.
“We continue to call on Botswana to initiate a public debate on its use of the death penalty, as the Government of Botswana has already agreed on the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council in January 2018. We stand ready to share our experience with the process of abolishing the death penalty,” European Union, Australia and Canada further stressed to Botswana.
Research indicate that the African Continent has joined the growing trend towards abolition of the death penalty worldwide with 80% of the members of the African Union having already abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. It is said that out of the 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that still retain the death penalty in law, only four – Botswana, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan – carried out executions in 2018. In Botswana, the death sentence is usually issued upon murder under aggravated circumstances and is carried out by hanging.
Since independence, there is on average one execution per year, and the execution usually takes place few years after trial. Research indicates that, as of March 2018, there were 51 people on death row in Botswana, a notable increase from previous years. “Four individuals were sentenced to death in 2017 and one person was executed. There was one person on death row at the end of 2016. No new death sentences were imposed in 2016 and one execution was carried out. There were four men on death row at the end of 2015. One new death sentence was imposed in 2015,” research further indicates.
Botswana’s constitution provides for the death penalty under section 4(1) which states that, “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offence under the law in force in Botswana of which he has been convicted.” In the same breath, section 202 of the Botswana Penal Code, which enforces the death penalty, states that, “any person who of malice aforethought causes the death of another person by an unlawful copyright Government of Botswana act or omission is guilty of murder.”
The Penal Code specifies that a person who is sentenced to death will be hanged by the neck until dead. Still in the Penal Code, section 203 states that “subject to the provisions of subsection (2), any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death. It continues that where a court in convicting a person of murder is of the opinion that there are extenuating circumstances, the court may impose any sentence other than death. (3) In deciding whether or not there are any extenuating circumstances the court shall take into consideration the standards of behavior of an ordinary person of the class of the community to which the convicted person belongs.”
Despite the pushbacks and calls for abolition of the death penalty, the then Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu adamantly stated that the death penalty will continue to be practiced in Botswana. Batshu was quoted speaking at the 29th session of the third cycle review report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland last year February.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.