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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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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

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.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

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.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

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.

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