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Rising murder cases scornful of death penalty

Cases of murder in Botswana are escalating despite the intervention of law mechanisms in the form of the death penalty.

Botswana is the only country in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that still upholds and practices the death penalty as other member states have either abolished the exercise in law or in practice. Indications suggest that the executions are in practice bearing no fruits as citizens continue to kill each other for various reasons – including trivial ones. Statistics turned up by WeekendPost indicate that murder has been escalating since 2015 through to 2016 and recently 2017.

According to the Botswana Police Service Annual Report for the year 2016, a total number of 278 murder cases were recorded in 2015. In 2016 the number escalated to a whooping 305 murder cases registered. Police records further indicate that during 2017 a total number of 70 murder cases were recorded from January to March, 81 from March to June and 51 from June to September summing to 202. The recorded cases from September to December were however not immediately availed to this publication upon request.

It is also still unclear how many cases have gone un-recorded between the years or in cases of when the victims have gone missing without a trace. Botswana Police Assistant Public Relations Officer (PRO) Jayson Chabota stated to this publication in an interview on Wednesday that “during the festive season police operations that ran from 18th December 2017 to 3rd January 2018, recorded a total of 22 murder cases”.

According to Chabota, this shows a glaring increase as compared to 20 cases registered during the same period in 2016. When asked on the reasons for these growing murder cases, the Police mouthpiece pointed out that “most murder cases were as a result of killings related to love affairs and misunderstandings that erupted at drinking places.” A highly regarded lecturer of Social Work at the University of Botswana (UB) Kgomotso Jongman hinted that death penalty is not a deterrent all.

“We have reached a state of hopelessness where nothing matters. Death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent but when people got nothing to lose it’s not a deterrent anymore,” he said. Take an example of a 19 year old in Mogoditshane who was on bail owing to murder, he went on and killed another person again, he highlighted while adding that “he knows he is going to be killed anyway”.

Jongman’s sentiments were also shared by Keletso Tshekiso; a reputable Counselor serving as the Publicity Secretary of the Botswana Counseling Association who was firm that capital punishment is proving to be counterproductive. She explained that “in punishment, the stimulus propelling the undesired behavior decreases the likelihood of repetition of that behavior in future. So you can’t punish a dead person because they won’t feel anything. In short you are just eliminating that individual. It may not be considered as punishment by another person until they too face death sentence. So to many, ‘capital punishment is just an angry law’ which eliminates the murderers (perpetrators) and not murder (action).”  

In addition, the professional Counselor noted that there are quite a number of reasons while people kill, like social influences, issues of power relations, cognitive and intellectual impairment and added that the reasons keep on increasing. Some human rights renowned local attorneys such as Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm, Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys and Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners continues to call for the abolishment of the capital punishment. 

When sharing his legal thoughts to WeekendPost on Thursday, Ndadi said: “I do not know what plays in the mind of a murderer, but I doubt if a murderer thinks of the consequences at the time. He continued: “the proponents of capital punishment argue that it serves as a deterrent, does it? NO!!!” On the other hand, he stated that he knows that it is wrong and barbaric to kill, and to him it doesn’t matter under what circumstances, unless of course it is in self defence.

“It doesn’t matter to me whether the killing is as a result of death penalty or crime, it is wrong. The argument that a punishment must fit the crime committed holds true but not to the extent of repeating the crime,” he pointed out. “That is why we do not rape people who rape, steal from those who steal, beat up those who beat others (even their spouses and partners) for we know it is wrong to do so. But why do we find it okay to kill?” he asked. The esteemed human rights attorney highlighted that he is aware that the Court of Appeal has declared death penalty in Botswana to be constitutional.

“I have a problem with that because any person has a right to life and dignity. The right to life must be preserved by government as well. No one should be licensed to kill by any law. The government must take the lead in showing how precious life is, and not follow what murderers do. Otherwise it is like punishing a child for doing what you yourself do to the child or others.”

Another well regarded attorney Rantao, has in recent reports, called for the abolishment of the death penalty on grounds that it is evil, irreversible, discriminatory and just a form of retribution that solves absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, while countries across the globe continue to dispose of the practice, Botswana still continues to enforce on it having executed approximately more than 53 people since independence in 1966, most of which were said to be men. Put mildly, Botswana carries out roughly 1 execution per year.

The death penalty is provided for in the supreme law being the constitution 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.” According to the Botswana Penal Code (which enforces capital punishment) section 202: “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.”

It posits in section 203 that “subject to the provisions of subsection (2), any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death. (2) 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 behaviour of an ordinary person of the class of the community to which the convicted person belongs.”

The technique for the execution of death sentence in Botswana is also pronounced under section 26(1) of the Penal code which posits that “when any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he shall be hanged by the neck until he is dead.” Meanwhile, on behalf of government, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu is adamant that the death penalty will continue to be practised.

He said this when speaking at the 29th session of the third cycle review report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) two weeks back at Geneva, Switzerland. He stated at the high level meeting that “Botswana’s view on “the question of death penalty” remains unchanged, and the death penalty remains a competent sentence under the laws of Botswana.”

He continued to highlight that, in that regard, “government holds the view that the death penalty is not a human rights violation, or a form of torture, but rather a matter of criminal justice. Like every country, we retain the sovereign right to independently decide our own criminal justice system, including the retention of the death penalty,” he maintained.

He also explained that while the country does not begrudge those who have abolished it or imposed a moratorium on executions, it equally expects that they too should respect their right to determine whether it abolishes or retains it, as a criminal justice sanction, in accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However Batshu said the Botswana government was however aware that there could be some genuine concern about the application of the death penalty in some parts of the world.

He further told the global gathering that “let me assure you that in Botswana, we have robust laws and institutions including an independent judiciary in order to ensure that there is no arbitrary imposition of the death sentence. Nonetheless, Government intends to hold public debates on the death penalty over the coming period, and Botswana would welcome technical and financial assistance to carry out such an exercise.”

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Botswana Parliament Okays Financial Intelligence Bill

28th January 2022
Peggy Serame

The National Assembly recently passed the Financial Intelligence Bill, 2021 (Bill No. 34 of 2021) during an Emergency Parliament Meeting. The Bill was first published on 23rd December, 2021 by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Peggy Serame.

The Act aims to re-enact with amendments the Financial Intelligence Act; to continue the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Agency and to re-constitute the National Financial Intelligence Coordinating Committee as a high level committee; to provide for third parties to perform certain customer due diligence measures on behalf of specified parties; to enable the Financial Intelligence Agency to initiate an analysis of information based on information in its on possession or information received from other sources to establish a suspicious transaction, and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto. The Financial Intelligence Bill has eight parts with a total of 63 clauses.

Serame highlighted that these laws are drawn because they are in line with international agreements the country has signed upon. Although implementation of the laws passed in parliament is a still a challenge. She urged public institutions to introspect if there are grievances within the community and deal with them. Emphasising that the perceptions people have about public servants and institutions are often based on a certain form of truth.

By way of background; the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has 40 Recommendations which countries have to comply with in order to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing proliferation.

During 2017 assessment; Botswana was found to have serious strategic deficiencies in her anti money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation framework. No recommendation was rated Compliant, 23 of the recommendations were non-compliant resulting in the country being grey listed by the FATF in 2018 and blacklisted by the European Union in 2020.

The country went right ahead into remedial actions towards being removed from the grey list, passing 25 pieces of legislation in 2018 and a further six in 2019. Resulting in the country being removed from the grey list in October 2021.

To address the deficiencies identified during assessments carried out by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). There was a proposal to overhaul the Financial Intelligence Act and consequential amendments to several other laws.

The amendments of these laws aim to strengthen the Anti-Money laundering, countering Financing of Terrorism and proliferation efforts in Botswana and will also put the country in a good position during the next Mutual Evaluation in 2024.

In her presentation’ Peggy Serame enunciated that; “the procedure at ESAAMLG is that after a country has amended its legislation, they are allowed to request for rerating of FATF Recommendations that are still rated Non-Compliant and partially compliant. “

Adding that “the request for re-rating has to be made at least six months in advance of the ESAAMLG Task Force Plenary meetings. This means for Botswana, the request for re-rating can only be considered during the September meeting of ESAAMLG. In its request for re-rating, the country has to submit all other information supporting the request for re-rating to the ESAAMLG Secretariat.

This supporting information refers to relevant laws, regulations or other AML/CFT/CFP measures that are in force and effect. It is crucial that the FI Bill and others are enacted expeditiously for the country to submit a request for re-rating in February 2022.”

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has expressed concern over the Financial Intelligence Bill stating that; “the discussion of this bill is relevant to what we are trying to do in prevention of financial and economic crimes, that is physical and revenue crimes. However; if virtual assets have value and can be digitally traded; it means that physical and revenue crimes can be committed using cryptocurrencies.

ESAAMLAG and FATF are very clear that money laundering and terrorist financing exist with the purview of virtual assets. What needs to happen is public education surrounding virtual assets and the risks that come with them. Research ought to be done on the implications surrounding virtual assets, this in turn will help guide in drawing laws and regulations. Without established regulation and oversight, the virtual assets space will become the wild west of the financial industry.”

The re-enactment of the Financial Intelligence Act has caused consequential amendments to 13 other pieces of legislation which have already caused an uproar in the country, these are; Companies Act, Trust Property Control Act, Counter Terrorism Act, Criminal procedure and Evidence Act, Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Extradition Act, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Biological and Toxin Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Nuclear Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Precious and Semi-Precious Stones (Protection) Act and the Real estate Professionals Act.

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Sebetlela drills GCC Cllrs on reset agenda

28th January 2022
Boyce Sebetela

Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, Lephimotswe Boyce Sebetela has addressed Councillors of Gaborone City Council (G.C.C) on the Reset Agenda, at their retreat in Palapye.

A number of resource persons facilitated on different topics of importance. The retreat is said to have been aimed at appreciating the role of Councillors in governance, leadership development, promoting team work and sharing better ways on how they could improve service delivery to their constituents.

The retreat comes at a time when Councillors country wide demands clarity on their roles and responsibilities to their electorates, Sebetlela emphasized the need for G.C.C Councillors, as other leaders to board-in the drive of reset agenda. Noting that, it is people-centric. It is said at the meeting Sebetela explained to councillors that Reset agenda, should be understood, as an action plan that seeks primarily, to ameliorate the status-quo in Botswana. Further imploring the councillors to link their priorities with those of the government.

Sebetlela whose key responsibility is to direct and oversee implementation of national priorities, in alignment with political pronouncements made by President Masisi, reportedly told Councillors that they are an important stakeholders in this reform. He further noted that, the rest agenda is nothing short of Batswana’s needs and desires. Therefore as leaders, they should be cognizant of the priorities set by their own government.

Other resource persons were from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC).

For his part, Boseja Ward, Block 6 and Block 7 Councillor Khumo Sebereko applauded and revealed the significance of this retreat, noting that it was long overdue. “This is of utmost importance for community leaders, as we get time to imbibe knowledge at each other’s knee” he said.  He further explained that they get to assess their own productivity versus efficiency on public service which really help them improve as public servants.

On the other hand, G.C.C Town Clerk, Lebuile Israel told Weekend Post that prior to the retreat, they had a special full council in Gaborone. The special full council was characterized by consultation of different Community Constituency Plans. “That was basically to identify real issues on the ground, which at Ministerial level culminates into National Key issues that guides the direction of money allotted to the Council for the coming financial year” he said. He explained that, this council ensures that their Community plans are in sync with Urban Development Plan 5 (UDP 5) and National Development Plan 12 (NDP 12).

The alignment of these Community plans with both UDP 5 and NDP 12 puts each constituency in a good position to be taken to form part of G.C.C Project Memorandum. He further explained that, projects proposed by Councillors sometimes get to be relegated to least critical projects by the order of importance or urgency. “Over the years there weren’t many projects, relegated into peripheral categories or rejected by the Council for not being in sync with either of UDP 5 or NDP 12”.

When closing Sebetlela said Botswana’s ability and potential to transform rests incumbent upon each citizen’s effort particularly those in leadership. Noting that, implementation of priorities put forth by the reset agenda requires collaborative effort.

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Botswana records rise in corruption – Report

28th January 2022
President Masisi

The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International has shown that corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide while it is on the rise in Sub Saharan Africa.

The results at a glance; The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks of countries around the world, based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be. The results are given on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year’s CPI paints a grim picture of the state of corruption worldwide.

According to the report; this year the global average remains unchanged for the tenth year in a row, at just 43 out of a possible 100 points. Despite multiple commitments, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.

And despite some progress, nearly half of all countries have been stagnant on the CPI for almost a decade. These countries have failed to move the needle in any significant way to improve their score and combat public sector corruption.”

Western Europe and European Union are the highest scoring region with 66 points.
The top countries are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, each with a score of 88. Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany complete the top 10.

49 countries were assessed in the Sub Saharan African region. With an average score of 33, Sub Saharan Africa is the lowest performing region in the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. The report puts forth the concern that the gains made by top scorers are overshadowed by the region’s poor performance. This reinforces the urgent need for African governments to implement existing anticorruption commitments if they are to alleviate the devastating effect of corruption on millions of citizens living in extreme poverty.

With a score of 66, Seychelles consistently earns top marks in the region. Botswana is also regarded as a top scorer in the region with a score of 60/100 and a domestic score 55/100. Bottom of the index are Somalia with a score of 12 and South Sudan coming in with 11.

“Although Botswana is regarded a top performer. It has hit a historic low in 2021, recording a significant 10 point decline from a score of 65 in 2012. The result corroborates the findings of Transparency International’s 2019 Global Corruption Barometer survey, which showed that most people in Botswana thought corruption had increased. Concerns over impunity such as in the case of the alleged looting of the National Petroleum Fund which implicated senior government officials-underscore the need to increase accountability for high-level corruption in the continent’s oldest” Revealed the report.

The research also shows that corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises. The global pandemic has been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms.

Local media in Botswana reported that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) recorded 47 cases of corruption in relation to COVID-19 tendering processes. With 32 from the Gaborone region; 12 from Greater Francistown region and 3 in Maun region.

In regards to case backlog, the directorate had a backlog of 182 cases pending with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) , this is in addition to cases that were still under investigation and corruption allegation reports that had been received. The corruption allegations included 69 COVID-19 reports which were received between April 2020 and May 2021. Out of the 69 cases, 27 were being investigated while most of the remaining cases were referred to the different ministries.

Generally, Bribery continues to impede access to basic services. In 2019, the Global corruption Barometer – Africa revealed that more than one out of four people or approximately 130 million citizens in 35 African countries surveyed paid a bribe to access public services like health care.

Unless these corruption challenges are addressed, many countries in sub Saharan Africa risk missing their sustainable development goal targets by 2030. Transparency International calls on governments to act on their anti-corruption and human rights commitments and for people across the globe to come together in demanding change.

Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International, highlighted that Daniel Eriksson; “In authoritarian context where control over government, business and the media rests with a few, social movements remain the last check on power. It is the power held by teachers, shopkeepers, students and ordinary people from all walks of life that will ultimately deliver accountability.”

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