The Botswana Police Service (BPS) together with government participants have resolved to appoint a task team to review the ‘outdated’ Inquest Act of 1954.
An Inquest is an investigation held to determine a person’s cause of death, normally conducted by a magistrate or a judge and it usually involves an autopsy by a medical officer or a coroner, in other jurisdictions. Inquests are typically ordered in unnatural or suspicious deaths.
The current Act; promulgated in 1954, long before the country saw independence is said to have been surpassed by events, is ambiguous and obstructs the work of Police Forensic Science Services (FSS).
Deputy Commissioner of Police, David Mosetse said that he believes the inquest process as outlined in the 1954 Act has been surpassed by times because the only deaths processed by FSS are ones reported to the police. He said that this then means the department can only take up cases after an inquest docket has been opened or where there is suspicion that criminality has occurred.
Mosetse also seemed to hint that the 1954 Act gave District Commissioners (DC’s)too much power as de facto coroners, urging stakeholders to “look at today’s landscape and ask ourselves whether we still wish the DC to continue ordering post mortems, exhumations, and deciding whether deaths are natural or not”.
“During that time (1954) when the Act was enacted, the District Commissioner was a British Representative, a man with enormous powers. According to the Inquest Act, this gentleman was a de facto Coroner who was empowered to make a decision as to whether to order an inquest hearing, to issue a certificate of death or whether to order a medical examination on a deceased body or to order burial,” Narrated Mosetse.
It also emerged that in some instances, hospitals decline to perform autopsies as they deem the cases to be for the police, while the FSS also declines to conduct them unless it has been reported to the police and in others, cases which are clearly natural deaths are referred to FSS merely because no one will issue a death certificate.
Pathologist Dr Shathani Mugoma also said that the old Act strips pathologists’ powers as it has consolidated all powers to determine deaths on the hands of Police.
“Pathologists rarely go to the scene; we are just watching the game and the Police do everything,” he lamented.
He also said that families of the deceased often times pressurise pathologists and the police to hurriedly issue a death certificate in order to claim insurance payouts.
He continued to say that what then happens next is that the cause of death is then labelled as ‘unknown’, something he said denies the country true audited mortality data.
Mugoma further asserted that the Act is also silent on who should be present when autopsies are conducted and pathologists are often at the mercy of commandeering attorneys.
He said that recently a contingent of Zimbabwean state security agents filled his autopsy room in Francistown, videotaping the procedure in progress.
“Powerful lawyers would insist on being present in the operating room.” He continued, “A few weeks ago 5 Zimbabwean CIO (Criminal Investigations Organisation) agents from Bulawayo and 3 from Plumtree crammed into the autopsy room, videotaping the procedure on a Zimbabwean body,” he said.
He also said that now that the Bogosi Act has also changed, there is also need to align it with the Inquest Act and that the role of the Botswana Health Professionals Council (BHPC) needs to be made clear in the new Act.
High ranking government stakeholders including Forensic pathologists, Police officers, district commissioners and directors, also converged on the proposition that, autopsies should be made compulsory and the decision to conduct the procedure no longer be a prerogative of the next of kin.
They proposed that the new Inquest Act should include mandatory post-mortem, replacement of District Commissioners with legal officers, clear definition of who should be present in autopsy rooms and compulsory tests on dead bodies before cremation.
They also proposed the need of a coroner, involvement of pathological personnel at crime or accident scenes as well as the provisions of medical records when conducting autopsies.
They also called for the new Act to be in the clear, in terms of who should conduct autopsies and the role of medical officers as well as the police’s ability to conclude whether the death is unnatural or not.
The FSS Director Baboloki Tumediso-Magosha is expected to appoint the task team to review the Act.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.