The Government, through Attorney General is preparing to launch an appeal against the controversial High Court judgement that in terms of the law — essentially validates drunken driving, Weekend Post has established.
The contentious judgement was delivered by Judge Lot Moroka, in the matter in which one Freeman Mapukule, was appealing a Magistrate ruling which had been made in favour of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). According to Moroka, using the breathalyser name coded Intoximeter EC/IR, the police were using an unlawful breathalyser “not prescribed by the Minister” in accordance with the law, in particular Road Traffic Act (Cap 69:01). As a result thereof, Justice Moroka ruled this week: “the act of testing the appellant was as such a nullity. The result can therefore not stand.”
He further ruled that there is no evidence and the failure to provide the specimen of breath was without reasonable excuse, and consequently that the second count cannot stand. “In the final analysis, for the reason of the unlawful breathalyser and the latter grounds the appeal ought to succeed. The appeal against conviction succeeds in both counts and the following orders are hereby made: the conviction and sentence are hereby quashed and set aside in respect to both counts and the appellant is discharged and acquitted,” Moroka said in the judgement.
The offence of failure/ refusal to provide a specimen of breath is created by section 47 (5), of the Road Traffic Act. The section provides that: “a police officer may require any person who is driving or is in charge of a motor vehicle, to provide at any place which that officer may specify, a specimen of breath for analysis by means of a breathalyser of the type prescribed by the Minister.” Has the Intoximeter CT/RS been prescribed by the Minister as permissible for use in Botswana for purposes of the Road Traffic Act?
In 2013, the Minister prescribed a new generation of breathalysers’ permissible for use in Botswana. This is Statutory Instrument No 95 of 2013. Section 2 of the Statutory Instrument provides that: “for the purpose of Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act, the breathalyser which shall be used for the analysis of specimens of breath, shall be any of the types of devices specified in the Schedule hereto: Alcometer, Intoxilyser, Drager Alcotest, Alco Sensor, Intoximeter, Lifeloc, RBT IV, Alcotech alert and Intox.”
Sergeant Phepheng had told the court that the type of instruments used to test the appellant’s alcohol level was the said unlawful Intoximeter EC/IR. Moroka appointed out in the judgement that; “this type of breathalyser does not form part of the list of breathalysers No. 18 prescribed for use by the Minister in terms of Statutory Instrument.” Refusal or failure to provide a specimen of breath or blood is not unlawful per se. It is the failure and or refusal, without reasonable excuse that constitutes an offence.
A reasonable excuse would in the circumstances of Section 47 include; certifiable health reasons; injuries arising from an accident etc. Each case will turn on its own circumstances. The appellant attributes his inability to provide sufficient breath to health reasons. He did not refuse to provide a specimen of blood for alcohol testing. This judgment seeks to clarify two critical issues around the use of breathalysers as used within the context of the Road Traffic Act (Cap 69:01) of the Laws of Botswana.
The first issue concerns the types of breathalysers’ permissible under the Road Traffic Act in Botswana. The second issue is concerned with the law on the offence of Refusal/Failure to Provide a Specimen of Breath Contrary to Section 47 (5) of the Road Traffic Act. What this judgement means for Botswana. A private attorney who preferred anonymity told Weekend Post that the judgement has brought controversy, and a problem has risen.
In terms of the law, he said the current High Court ruling on the matter for now takes precedence and as such motorists cannot take the breathalyser as the machines were not lawfully sanctioned. “Currently there is no control, as we enter the festive season, for drunken and driving and this therefore will create a problem. Motorists can now drive under the influence of alcohol, and no case can be registered at court on the same. It means anyone can drink and drive at this point without being charged for the presumed offence,” he stated.
It’s favourable for motorists imbibing on alcohol, but the country needs control systems to curb driving under the influence of alcohol. They should consider approaching Minister or appealing. They should get the machines approved or prescribed by the Minister. If the machine is not prescribed, their case has no merit since the machine has not been sanctioned. Contacted for comment, Botswana Police Service (BPS), Traffic boss Mosimanegape Katlholo could not be drawn into the matter.
“I cannot comment on the matter for now as we need to meet as Police to take an organisation position on the matter, otherwise I will be talking my personal views or opinion which I want to guard against,” he said. The alcohol testing came after the appellant was arrested by the Selibe Phikwe police following an accident in which the motor vehicle he was driving collided with an electric pole and fence, this after he lost control of the motor vehicle.
The police who attended to the accident formed the opinion that he was driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and asked him to accompany them to the police station for testing his breath for alcohol level. The accused agreed and upon arrival at the police station, the appellant was duly warned that he was required to provide a specimen of breath into an alcometer referred to by the Police officers who gave evidence at trial as Intoximeter EC/IR serial number 012623 (which is presently unlawful).
The accused blew breath into the Intoximeter but could not generate sufficient specimen for testing and reasons for the failure were not specified in the record of proceedings from the lower court. Police then warned and cautioned him of the offences of failure to provide a specimen of breath and that of driving without due care and attention. Consequently, he was tried and convicted of the two offences. He was duly sentenced to pay a fine of P 3 200.00 on count 1. He is appealing against the conviction on the count at the High Court.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.