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Monday, 04 December 2023

AU to hear qualms over Botswanas death penalty

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An international human rights organization, based in the United Kingdom, which works for the abolition of the death penalty, Reprieve, has written to the African Union Commission asking them to contact the Botswana government and find out why Patrick Gabaakanye was executed “in breach of the provisional measures”.

Gabaakanye, 65 from Marulamantsi ward in Serowe was executed on May 25 at Gaborone Central Prison following a conviction for the murder of a 75-year-old man at Gamosu land in Metsimotlhabe in 2010.

George Havenhand who is a case lawyer (Solicitor of England and Wales) from the international human rights organization stated: “We are looking into what steps to take in respect of our admissibility submissions in light of Patrick’s execution.”

The case work lawyer Havenhand told United Nations (UN) resident Coordinator in Botswana Anders Pedersen in a confidential e-mail seen by this publication, that “in particular, we are very concerned that Patrick appears to have been executed without a mental health assessment in circumstances where there were serious concerns about his mental health and intellectual functioning; that no decision appears to have been made on Patrick’s mercy petition; that the execution, like all executions in Botswana, was shrouded in secrecy, without prior notification given to family or lawyers, and in violation of international law; and that the execution was in breach of the African Commission’s provisional measures.”

Another casework lawyer (Solicitor of England and Wales), at Reprieve Zoe Bedford, wrote to Pedersen through e-mail on the African Commission proceedings.

She     stated: “we have raised a number of issues, including the way in which executions are carried out by Botswana (addressing the secrecy, lack of notice and failure to allow access to the body), the execution method (hanging), the failure to conduct a mental health assessment and consequent risk of executing the mentally ill / intellectually disabled and the lack of due process (including not allowing sufficient time to prepare a clemency petition, the absence of rules governing the clemency process and the refusal to confirm that it will provide a copy of the clemency decision with reasoning).”

Weekend Post has established that through his attorneys, Gabaakanye had repeatedly made the Botswana authorities particularly President Dr. Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama aware that he will pursue his complaint before the AU Commission and requested that his execution be ‘stayed’ pending the resolution of the issues, in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter and international law.

However, he received no response from the government on his requests, until he was executed. His attorney Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners had made multiple requests for a mental health assessment for Gabaakanye, all of which have either been denied or ignored.

“As you may recall from your meeting with Martin and Harriet, there are real concerns about Patrick’s mental health and intellectual functioning, supported by a preliminary report from a forensic psychologist conducted on the basis of interview transcripts tests administered by Harriet and Martin,” Bedford highlighted to the UN Resident Coordinator in Botswana.

However, she said that there were no assessment of Patrick’s mental health carried out by the Botswana authorities and as such, that there is a real risk that his execution was in violation of international law.

However in terms of clemency procedure in Botswana, she said, there was a ruling which established various procedural rights which did not previously exist in Botswana, marking a positive development in capital jurisprudence in Botswana.

Among other things, she stated that the ruling established that: it is obligatory for the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy to meet to consider every clemency petition and there is a constitutional right to petition for clemency and have his petition considered. She added that in order for the prisoner to exercise this constitutional right, it is necessary to provide prodeo counsel to advice on and prepare the clemency petition.

Indications suggest that domestic court rulings and rulings by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights indicate that in Botswana, courts must consider mitigating and aggravating circumstances relevant to an offender’s culpability and moral blameworthiness in committing the specific offence.“This indicates some discretion in sentencing.”

According to a Deputy Director, Death Penalty Team (Solicitor of England and Wales) Harriet McCulloch, who is also placed at the human rights organization Reprieve reminded Pedersen; “international law requires that clemency procedures should adhere to minimum due process requirements but in Botswana, there were no due process protections provided in law or practice.”

In 2001, a South African national Marriette Bosch was also executed for murder by hanging for the murder of Maria Magdalene Wolmarans while her petition for clemency was pending with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Meanwhile, in the classified e-mail, Pedersen who is also United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Botswana also expressed shock to the developments that Botswana’s death row inmate Gabaakanye eventually was executed.

“We are certainly aware of the fact that the execution most ‘unfortunately’ did take place,” he stated in the e-mail conversation on Friday, May 27, 2016 just two days after Gabaakanye’s execution.

Pedersen was responding to Havenhand as they were having an exchange at the (then) impending execution of Gabaakanye.

The confidential long e-mail communication was between Reprieve Casework lawyers, local human rights organization Ditshwanelo, Dingake Law Partners and Pedersen. They were assisting to facilitate Gabaakanye’s petition for clemency and/or pardon under “provisional measures”.

Professor Babcock who is an international expert on the death penalty, Bedford, Ditshanwelo, Doughty Street chambers and Christof Heyns, worked on the complaint to the African Commission on various issues, including the failure of the State to conduct a mental health assessment at any stage of the proceedings.

The Constitution of Botswana establishes an Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, which advises the President to pardon or commute death sentences. It is understood that the Committee may only be summoned by the President, but the President is compelled to summon the Committee for every sentence of death.

The Constitution and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act both state that the President may pardon any offense. Before anyone is executed, the President must approve the death sentence.

Gabaakanye was convicted for murder in 2010 and his appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on July 30 last year.

Capital punishment is commonly used in Botswana, one of a few democracies which continue the practice. The nation debate on death penalty will continue to occupy the national discourse for a long time to come as citizens are evidently torn apart – some support the practice while others abhor it.

The Human Rights Committee has previously observed that Botswana should ensure that the death penalty is applied for only the most serious crimes, with an eventual goal of “abolition”.

The Committee recommended that Botswana make available complete information on the application of the death penalty, such as “the number of convictions for murder, the number of and reasons for the courts’ findings of mitigating circumstances, the number of death sentences imposed by the courts, and on the number of the persons executed year by year.”

The European Union has also called on Botswana to “rethink” death penalty.“Following the recent execution of Patrick Gabaankanye, in Gaborone, Botswana, the European Union recalls its opposition to the use of capital punishment which can never be justified. The European Union believes that the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment and has consistently called for its universal abolition,” the EU said through a statement.

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19 Bokamoso Private Hospital nurses graduate at Lenmed Nursing College

28th November 2023

The graduation of 19 nurses from Bokamoso Private Hospital at Lenmed Nursing College marks a significant milestone in their careers. These nurses have successfully completed various short learning programs, including Adult Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Nursing Care, Anaesthetic & Recovery Room Nursing, Anaesthetic Nursing, and Recovery Room Nursing. The ceremony, held in Gaborone, was a testament to their hard work and dedication.

Lenmed Nursing College, a renowned healthcare group with a presence in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, and Ghana, has been instrumental in providing quality education and training to healthcare professionals. The Group Head of Operations, Jayesh Parshotam, emphasized the importance of upskilling nurses, who are at the forefront of healthcare systems. He also expressed his appreciation for the partnerships with Bokamoso Private Hospital, the Ministry of Health, and various health training institutes in Botswana.

Dr. Morrison Sinvula, a consultant from the Ministry of Health, commended Lenmed Health and Lenmed Nursing College for their commitment to the education and training of these exceptional nurses. He acknowledged their guidance, mentorship, and support in shaping the nurses’ careers and ensuring their success. Dr. Sinvula also reminded the graduates that education does not end here, as the field of healthcare is constantly evolving. He encouraged them to remain committed to lifelong learning and professional development, embracing new technologies and staying updated with the latest medical advancements.

Dr. Gontle Moleele, the Superintendent of Bokamoso Private Hospital, expressed her excitement and pride in the graduating class of 2023. She acknowledged the sacrifices made by these individuals, who have families and responsibilities, to ensure their graduation. Dr. Moleele also thanked Lenmed Nursing College for providing this opportunity to the hospital’s nurses, as it will contribute to the growth of the hospital.

The certificate recipients from Bokamoso Private Hospital were recognized for their outstanding achievements in their respective programs. Those who received the Cum Laude distinction in the Adult Intensive Care Unit program were Elton Keatlholwetse, Lebogang Kgokgonyane, Galaletsang Melamu, Pinkie Mokgosi, Ofentse Seboletswe, Gorata Basupi, Bareng Mosala, and Justice Senyarelo. In the Emergency Nursing Care program, Atlanang Moilwa, Bakwena Moilwa, Nathan Nhiwathiwa, Mogakolodi Lesarwe, Modisaotsile Thomas, and Lorato Matenje received the Cum Laude distinction. Kelebogile Dubula and Gaolatlhe Sentshwaraganye achieved Cum Laude in the Anaesthetic & Recovery Room Nursing program, while Keletso Basele excelled in the Anaesthetic Nursing program. Mompoloki Mokwaledi received recognition for completing the Recovery Room Nursing program.

In conclusion, the graduation of these 19 nurses from Bokamoso Private Hospital at Lenmed Nursing College is a testament to their dedication and commitment to their profession. They have successfully completed various short learning programs, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their respective fields. The collaboration between Lenmed Nursing College, Bokamoso Private Hospital, and the Ministry of Health has played a crucial role in their success. As they embark on their careers, these nurses are encouraged to continue their professional development and embrace new advancements in healthcare.

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BNF secures 15 constituencies in UDC coalition, wants more

28th November 2023

The Botswana National Front (BNF) has recently announced that they have already secured 15 constituencies in the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition, despite ongoing negotiations. This revelation comes as the BNF expresses its dissatisfaction with the current government and its leadership.

The UDC, which is comprised of the BNF, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Alliance for Progressives (AP), and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), is preparing for the upcoming General Elections. However, the negotiations to allocate constituencies among the involved parties are still underway. Despite this, the BNF Chairman, Patrick Molotsi, confidently stated that they have already acquired 15 constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally.

Molotsi’s statement reflects the BNF’s long-standing presence in many constituencies across Botswana. With a strong foothold in these areas, it is only natural for the BNF to seek an increase in the number of constituencies they represent. This move not only strengthens their position within the UDC coalition but also demonstrates their commitment to serving the interests of the people.

In a press conference, BNF Secretary General, Ketlhafile Motshegwa, expressed his discontent with the current government leadership. He criticized the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for what he perceives as a disregard for the well-being of the Batswana people. Motshegwa highlighted issues such as high unemployment rates and shortages of essential medicines as evidence of the government’s failure to address the needs of its citizens.

The BNF’s dissatisfaction with the current government is a reflection of the growing discontent among the population. The Batswana people are increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and the failure to address pressing issues. The BNF’s assertion that the government is playing with the lives of its citizens resonates with many who feel neglected and unheard.

The BNF’s acquisition of 15 constituencies, even before the negotiations have concluded, is a testament to their popularity and support among the people. It is a clear indication that the Batswana people are ready for change and are looking to the BNF to provide the leadership they desire.

As the negotiations continue, it is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize the interests of the people. The allocation of constituencies should be done in a fair and transparent manner, ensuring that the voices of all citizens are represented. The BNF’s success in securing constituencies should serve as a reminder to the other parties of the need to listen to the concerns and aspirations of the people they aim to represent.

In conclusion, the BNF’s acquisition of 15 constituencies, despite ongoing negotiations, highlights their strong presence and support among the Batswana people. Their dissatisfaction with the current government leadership reflects the growing discontent in the country. As the UDC coalition prepares for the upcoming General Elections, it is crucial for all parties to prioritize the needs and aspirations of the people. The BNF’s success should serve as a reminder of the importance of listening to the voices of the citizens and working towards a better future for Botswana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Children’s summit to discuss funding of NGOS

21st November 2023

One of the key issues that will be discussed by the Childrens’ Summit, which will be hosted by Childline Botswana Trust on 28th – 30th November in Gaborone, will be the topical issue of financing and strengthening of civil society organizations.

A statement from Childline Botswana indicates that the summit will adopt a road map for resourcing the children’s agenda by funding organizations. It will also cover issues relating to child welfare and protection; aimed at mobilizing governments to further strengthen Child Helplines; as well as sharing of emerging technologies to enhance the protection of Children and promotion of their rights.

According to Gaone Chepete, Communications Officer at Childline Botswana, the overall objective of the summit is to provide a platform for dialogue and engagement towards promoting practices and policies that fulfil children’s rights and welfare.

“Child Helplines in the region meet on a bi-annual basis to reflect on the state of children; evaluate their contribution and share experiences and best practice in the provision of services for children,” said Chepete.

The financing of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by the state or its functionaries has generated mixed reactions from within the civil society space, with many arguing that it threatened NGOs activism and operational independence.

In February 2019, University of Botswana academic Kenneth Dipholo released a paper titled “State philanthropy: The demise of charitable organizations in Botswana,” in which he faulted then President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama for using charity for political convenience and annexing the operational space of NGOs.

“Civil society is the domain in which individuals can exercise their rights as citizens and set limits to the power of the state. The state should be developing capable voluntary organizations rather than emaciating or colonizing them by usurping their space,” argued Dipholo.

He further argued that direct involvement of the state or state president in charity breeds unhealthy competition between the state itself and other organizations involved in charity. Under these circumstances, he added, the state will use charity work to remain relevant to the ordinary people and enhance its visibility at the expense of NGOs.

“A consequence of this arrangement is that charitable organizations will become affiliates of the state. This stifles innovation in the sense that it narrows the ability of charitable organizations to think outside the box. It also promotes mono-culturalism, as the state could support only charitable organizations that abide by its wishes,” said Dipholo.

In conclusion, Dipholo urged the state to focus on supporting NGOs so that they operate in a system that combines philanthropic work and state welfare programs.

He added that state philanthropy threatens to relegate and render charitable organizations virtually irrelevant and redundant unless they re-engineer themselves.

Another University of Botswana (UB) academic, Professor Zibani Maundeni, opined that politics vitally shape civil society interaction; as seen in the interactions between the two, where there is mutual criticism in each other’s presence.

Over the years, NGOs have found themselves grappling with dwindling financial resources as donors ran out of money in the face of increased competition for financing. Many NGOs have also been faulted for poorly managing their finances because of limited strategic planning and financial management expertise. This drove NGOs to look to government for funding; which fundamentally altered the relationships between the two. The end result was a complete change in the operational culture of NGOs, which diminished their social impact and made them even more fragile. Increased government control through contract clauses also reduced NGOs activism and autonomy.

However, others believe that NGOs and government need each other, especially in the provision of essential services like child welfare and protection. Speaking at the Civil Society Child Rights Convention in 2020, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Setlhabelo Modukanele said government considers NGOs as critical partners in development.

“We recognize the role that NGOs play a critical role in the country’s development agenda,” said Modukanele.

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