Btv’s reject becomes Africa’s jewel
By Dave Baaitse
When the national broadcaster Botswana Television (Btv) opened its doors in 2000 they roped in one of Africa’s top talents, Chris Bishop as head of Current Affairs. A year later his unceremonious departure at Mass Media Complex engineered at the country’s top office exposed Botswana’s dosage of harsh treatment of Journalists.
But what was Bishop’s offence? His decision to air the controversial murder trial that caught the attention of the international media. The trial featured a white woman, Marietta Bosch who was prosecuted for the murder of her love rival. The Office of the President then had attempted to stop the airing of the Bishop produced content. A believer in press freedom, Bishop had no choice but to press ahead with his decision but it cost him his job. Sharing with an audience at the Avani Hotel on Tuesday, Bishop said the decision to terminate his contract left him broken, unemployed, broke and desperate
He recalls the events prior to his ‘firing’ as if it all happened yesterday. Packed at a gas station in the early hours of the morning in Gaborone, Bishop’s curiosity could not escape the large stacks of newspaper bundles that were delivered at the quick shop. He noticed that almost everyone who went into the shop grabbed a copy, the copies all finished in the blink of an eye. The top story that made headlines was the controversial murder trial of South African white woman, Marietta Bosch who was facing the death sentence.
It was at this instance that Bishop developed more interest in the story and the thought of broadcasting on Btv occurred to his mind. For the first time since working in Botswana, Bishop was headed for a whitecap; this was a story that will change the dynamics of Btv news anchoring. Bishop pursued the story, conducted interviews and chased follow up stories on the eve of Marietta Bosch’s execution. But before he could go on and air his story, his manoeuvrings leaked and he was summoned to the President’s office.
A directive was then impressed on him not to go on with the story; however Bishop would still stand his ground and run the story. He was more than determined to broadcast the reel that carried the landmark trial in the country. When his efforts were shot down, he had no option but to unwillingly opt out marking the end of an era. He penned down his resignation with immediate effect before re- uniting with his family in Johannesburg.
Speaking in Gaborone this week Bishop said he will always have a soft spot for Botswana. After leaving Botswana he worked for different media houses in South Africa before he was roped in to become the founding Editor of Forbes Africa Magazine, a post he resigned six months ago after a very successful tenure. He is currently working on his book which he says will touch on the Botswana story, where he will name drop the top officials who orchestrated his exit at Mass Media Complex.
The controversial story of Marietta Bosch
The Story of Mariette Bosch is about the first white woman sentenced to hang in Botswana for murdering her rival in love; Maria Wolmarans in 1996 using a gun that she had travelled to South Africa, her country of origin, to collect and illegally bring into Botswana. Mariette Bosch was 50 years at the time of her sentencing by the Court of Appeal at the end of January 2012. In sentencing Marietta Bosch, Justice Timothy Aguda, the Nigerian lawyer acting as president of the panel, said: "She was a wicked and despicable woman. The murder had been planned over a long period, no doubt as a result of jealousy and infatuation."
This is a story that touches on the controversial aspects of race relations and expectations on race relations and the views of the legal system when it comes to race relations. The story moves on to encompass in other formats the views of the ordinary man of how apartheid remains a huge part of the society yet so the society, especially our neighbouring South Africans remain in denial.
It is a story that to some degree did test the independent mind of the then President of the Republic of Botswana, Festus Gontebanye Mogae, a self-confessed retributionist. He was being petitioned by institutions locally, by Mariette Bosch Lawyers, by Mariette Bosch herself, by foreign governments who were all condemning the death sentence. But there were many others who supported the death penalty.
Capital punishment UK was quoted saying whether or not Mariette deserved death for this murder is a matter of personal opinion – but let us not forget Ria Wolmerans, did she deserve to be deceived and abandoned by her husband and to die by shooting because she was a bar to Mariette's and Tienie's relationship? She too had human rights.
After the controversial killing of Marietta Bosch many individuals from other countries started to fear Botswana for its notorious death sentence. But in the case of Botswana they never realised that they are dealing with a case of a white person until foreign media and human rights groups started talking and pilling more pressure. For Botswana it was a murder case involving a woman who murdered another out of jealousy and justice took its course.
Who is Chris Bishop?
Chris Bishop is an award – winning journalist who has been reporting from across Africa for 23 years of his thirty six years in the profession. He has interviewed numerous heads of state in Africa, among them Jacob Zuma, Robert Mugabe, Kenneth Kaunda, Joaquim Chissano, Bakili Muluzi and Yoweri Museveni.
Bishop has worked for the BBC in London, CNBC Africa and became the founding editor of Forbes Africa in 2011. He won the Sanlam Award for excellence in financial journalism (broadcast) in 2011 and the Editor of the year at the Pica Awards in 2013. His first award came in 1987 for his story on the uncovering of a plot to assassinate the Queen on a royal visit to New Zealand. He is a dreamer and optimist when it comes to business in Africa.
You may like
DPP drops Kably threat to kill case
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng/Lephephe Liakat Kably has welcomed the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)â€™s decision not to prosecute BDP councillor, Meshack Tshenyego who allegedly threatened to kill him. However, the legislator has warned that should anything happen to his life, the state and the courts will have to account.
In an interview with this publication, Kablay said he has heard that the DPP has declined to prosecute Tshenyego in a case in which he threatened to kill him adding that the reasons he received are that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. â€śI am fine and at peace with the decision not to prosecute over evidential deficits but I must warn that should anything happen to my life both the DPP and the Magistrate will have to account,â€ť Kablay said.
Connectedly, Kably said he has made peace with Tshenyego, â€śwe have made peace and he even called me where upon we agreed to work for the party and bury the hatchetâ€ť.
The DPP reportedly entered into a Nolle Prosequi in the matter, meaning that no action would be taken against the former Letlhakeng Sub-district council chairperson and currently councillor for Matshwabisi.
According to the charge sheet before the Court, councilor Tshenyego on July 8th, 2022 allegedly threatened MP Kably by indirectly uttering the following words to nominatedcouncilor Anderson Molebogi Mathibe, â€śMosadi wa ga Liakat le ban aba gagwe ba tsile go lela, Mosadi wame le banake le bone ba tsile go lela. E tla re re mo meeting, ka re tsena meeting mmogo, ke tla mo tlolela a bo ke mmolaya.â€ť
Loosely translated this means, Liakatâ€™s wife and children are going to shed tears and my wife and kids will shed tears too. I will jump on him and kill him during a meeting.
Mathibe is said to have recorded the meeting and forwarded it to Kably who reported the matter to the police.
In a notice to the Magistrate Court to have the case against Tshenyego, acting director of Public Prosecutions, Wesson ManchweÂ cited the nolle prosequi by the director of public prosecution in terms of section 51 A (30) of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana as reasons for dropping the charges.
A nolle prosequi is a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action.
â€śIn pursuance of my powers under section 51 A (300 of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana, I do hereby stop and discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused Meshack Tshenyego in the Kweneng Administrative District, CR.No.1077/07/2022 being the case of the State vs Tshenyego,â€ť said Manchwe. The acting director had drafted the notice dropping the charges on 13th day of March 2023.
The case then resumed before the Molepolole Magistrate Solomon Setshedi on the 14th of March 2023. The Magistrate issued an order directing â€śthat matters be withdrawn with prejudice to the State, accused is acquitted and discharged.â€ť
DPP seizes prosecution duties from Police
Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has finally taken over prosecution from the Botswana Police Service (BPS). The police have been prosecuting for years, but the takeover means that they will now only focus on investigations and then hand over to the DPP for prosecution.
Talks of complete takeover began as far back as 2008, but for years it seemed implementation was sluggish. However, the Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni, revealed that the complete takeover is expected to be completed soon.
During a presentation to the Committee of Supply by Shamukuni this week, it was revealed that the project has been implemented in 22 police stations nationwide, including Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, and Kasane. He further stated that the project has been allocated P3,000,000 for the 2023/2024 financial year to facilitate the opening of more satellite offices for the DPP.
Shamukuni said the Lobatse station is scheduled for a complete takeover by the end of May 2023, while the Kasane DPP satellite office has been established and became operational as of February 1, 2023.
“As reported previously, preparations are at an advanced stage to open a satellite office in Tsabong to curtail expenses, as well as frequent long-distance trips to these areas, as it is currently serviced by the Lobatse DPP office,” Shamukuni said.
Shamukuni said that the takeover strategy is to enable a seamless and gradual takeover of prosecution from the BPS without overwhelming and overstretching the thin resources at its disposal.
According to Shamukuni, the implementation of the prosecution takeover project has increased the workload of the 211 prosecutors in the DPP establishment.
Furthermore, the Justice Minister said DPP statistics show that the DPP has a total of 11,903 cases and dockets as of January 2023. He indicated that this is a significant increase in the number of cases being handled by the DPP, considering that in November 2021, the DPP had just over 8,471 files.
â€śOut of the total case load, 8 382 are cases pending before various courts while 3521 are dockets received from law enforcement agencies of which 1 325 are awaiting service of summons while the rest are being assessed for suitability of prosecution or otherwiseâ€ť said Shamukuni.
He further stated that The DPP has consistently maintained an 80% success rate in matters completed at court.
â€śAs at the end of January 2023, the success rate stood at 82.3% against a target of 90% whilst the average performance in respect of turnaround time for conclusion of cases at court stood at 17.5 months against a target of 18 months,â€ť he said.
BACKLOG OF CASES â€“ LAND TRIBUNAL
Meanwhile, Minister Shamukuni has revealed that Gaborone land Tribunal is experiencing a backlog of cases. Before parliament this week, Shamukuni revealed that a total 230 appeals were completed for the period of April 2022- December 2022 and only 76.5% of them were completed within set time frame.
The minister said that the Gaborone division has experiencing a backlog of cases due to manpower constraints and he further indicated that presiding officers from other divisions have been brought in to expedite case disposal.
He further indicated that the land tribunal is a specialized court that has been empowered to resolve appeals arising from land boards. â€śIt has been mandated to determine appeals from the decisions of Physical planning committees of Districts Councilsâ€ť said Shamukuni.
Land Tribunal relocated to the Ministry of Justice from Ministry of Land and Water Affairs in November 2022.
â€śAn amount of P37, 842,670 is requested to cover salaries, allowance and other operational expenses for the Department of the land Tribunal,â€ť alluded Shamukuni
BCP, AP stalemate in 7 constituencies
When the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives, Botswana Labour Party (BLP), and conveners reconvene next week, the controversial issue of allocation of the seven constituencies will be the main topic of discussion, WeekendPost can reveal.
Not only that, but the additional four constituencies will also dominate the talks. The idea is to finally close the “constituency allocation phase,” which has proven to be the most difficult part of the ongoing negotiations.
Earlier this year, the two parties announced that the marathon talks would be concluded by February. Even at a media briefing last month, BCP Secretary General Goretetse Kekgonegile and Publicity Secretary Dr. Mpho Pheko were optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded before the end of February.
However, it is now mid-March and the talks have yet to be concluded. What could be the reasons for the delay? This is a question that both Kekgonegile and Pheko have not responded to, as they have ignored the reporters’ inquiries. However, a senior figure within the party has confided to this publication as to what is delaying the highly anticipated negotiations.
“We are reconvening next week to finalize constituency allocations, taking into account the additional four new ones plus the outstanding seven,” he explained. It later surfaced that Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta are all contested by both BCP and AP. This is because the other 50 constituencies were allocated by December of last year.
The three parties have failed to find common ground for the Bosele Ward by-elections. Are these constituencies not a deal breaker for the talks? “None of the constituencies is a deal breaker,” responded a very calm BCP official.
In Bosele Ward, AP has yielded to BCP, despite most of its members disapproving the decision. On the other hand, BLP has refused, and it will face off with BCP together with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The decision by BLP to face off with BCP has been labelled as a false start for the talks by political observers.