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State execution of Kgosibodiba opens old wounds on death penalty

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Australia and Canada slammed the Botswana government for still maintaining the barbaric practice insisting that it is outdated.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.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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