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AU to hear qualms over Botswana’s death penalty

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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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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