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AU to hear qualms over Botswanas 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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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan

31st March 2023

Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme of “Ithuse” meaning “help yourself”

The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.

Letshego’s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. “In keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascom’s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,” he said.

He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.

Mascom’s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.

“The speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,” she concluded.

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DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins

29th March 2023

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.

Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.

Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.

DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.

It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.

According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.

Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.

When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.

Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.

“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.

He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said

This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.

Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.

Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.

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DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo

29th March 2023

Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.

Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.

It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”

Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.

At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.

In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.

When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.

When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.

The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.

Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.

Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.

Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.

 

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