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HANG ‘EM HIGH! II


The propaganda has taken its toll, however. Romney knew that many people who would otherwise support capital punishment now hesitate for fear it may lead to an awful miscarriage of justice. Hence his call for "a standard of proof that is incontrovertible" – an uncompromising benchmark endorsed by members of the panel he set up. 

That is a worthy goal, but it cannot be an absolute criterion. No worthwhile human endeavor is utterly foolproof. Hospitals would have to shut down their operating rooms if surgeons had to guarantee their infallibility.

Even at hospitals as renowned as the Brigham, patients sometimes die on the operating table because of blunders or inadvertence. Is that an argument for abolishing surgery? Should air travel be banned because innocent passengers may lose their lives in crashes? Should the pharmaceutical industry be shut down because the wrong drug or dosage, mistakenly taken or prescribed, can kill?

To make the perfect the enemy of the good is irrational and counterproductive. The benefits of surgery, air travel, and prescription drugs are enormous – far too valuable to give up even though we know that people will die because of the fallibility of doctors and pilots and people who handle medicine.

The same is true of capital punishment: The benefits of a legal system in which judges and juries have the option of sentencing the cruelest or coldest murderers to death far outweigh the potential risk of executing an innocent person. And there is this added reassurance: The risk of an erroneous execution is infinitesimal, and getting smaller all the time. And the benefits? First and foremost, the death penalty makes it possible for justice to be done to those who commit the worst of all crimes.

The execution of a murderer sends a powerful moral message: that the innocent life he took was so precious, and the crime he committed so horrific, that he forfeits his own right to remain alive.

When a vicious killer is sent to the electric chair or strapped onto a gurney for a lethal injection, or hung on the gallows, society is condemning his crime with a seriousness and intensity that no other punishment achieves.

By contrast, a society that sentences killers to nothing worse than prison – no matter how depraved the killing or how innocent the victim – is a society that doesn't really think murder is so terrible. But there is more to executions than justice for the dead. There is also protection for the living. Though Romney didn't say so when he introduced his new commission, the real threat to innocent life is not the availability of the death penalty, but the absence of one.

For every time a murderer is executed, innocent lives are saved.

The foes of capital punishment have denied for years that putting murderers to death has a deterrent effect on other potential killers. That has always flown in the face of common sense and history – after all, wherever murder is made punishable by death, murder rates generally decline. But it also flies in the face of a lengthening shelf of research that confirms the death penalty's deterrent effect.

Deterrence means to punish somebody as an example and to create fear in other people for the punishment. The death penalty is one of those extreme punishments that would create fear in the mind of any sane person. Ernest van den Haag, in his article "On Deterrence and the Death Penalty" mentions, "One abstains from dangerous acts because of vague, inchoate, habitual and, above all, preconscious fears" (193). Everybody fears death, even animals. Most criminals would think twice if they knew their own lives were at stake.

Although there is no clear statistical evidence that death penalty deters crime, we have to agree that most of us fear death. Suppose there is no death penalty in a state and life imprisonment without parole is the maximum punishment. What is stopping a prisoner who is facing a life imprisonment without parole to commit another murder in the prison? There is no stopping these inmates from committing further crimes within the prison, if they are already facing the maximum punishment. Anti-death penalty advocates argue that imprisonment itself could deter criminals.

They believe that we do not need to go to the extreme route of killing criminals to deter crime. Hugo Adam Bedau in his article, "Capital Punishment and Social Defense" mentions, "Crimes can be deterred only by making would-be criminals frightened of being arrested, convicted, and punished for crimes…" (301). Unfortunately, the ever-increasing population in prisons proves otherwise. Somehow, just imprisonment is not enough for some people to stop them from committing a crime. The number of criminals is increasing every year.


Anti-death penalty advocates believe that the death penalty is irreversible and may become a cause of irreversible mistakes. Once a person has been sentenced to death and thus death penalty practiced, there is nothing that can be done to undo the punishment if the accused turns out to be innocent. I agree that the death penalty is irreversible, but the chance of making a mistake in the death penalty is extremely low. Capital punishment is considered an extreme punishment and the judicial system takes a lot of care in arriving at that decision.

There are several safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. For example, "Capital punishment may be imposed only when guilt is determined by clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts", "Anyone sentenced to death shall receive the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction", etc. There are several other privileges provided to the convicted that assure that the death penalty is given to the rightly accused person. According to Haag, "Trials are more likely to be fair when life is at stake – the death penalty is probably less often unjustly inflicted than others" (192).

Even if we assume that there are chances that an innocent person is executed, it is the problem with the trial, not the punishment. "It is not the penalty – whether death or prison – which is unjust when inflicted on the innocent, but its imposition on the innocent", writes Haag (192). When an innocent person is sentenced to death, it is not the fault of the punishment itself, but the trial that led to this punishment. There have been cases in which a person has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, and then after several years, it was revealed that the person was innocent.

No court or compensation in this world can return the horrifying years spent in the prison by that innocent person. If we stop giving life imprisonment sentences to criminals on this ground, then probably most of the criminals would be walking around free on the streets within ten to fifteen years. The fear and trust that the society has in the judicial system would be lost. The judicial system has minimized the chances of mistakes. It is almost impossible to sentence a wrongly accused person. Then, why cause the death of several innocent victims just on the bleak assumption that some day we might make a mistake?

Some people might think that capital punishment is inhuman and barbarous, but, as I've already said before, ask those people who have lost their loved ones or whose lives have been tied to a hospital bed because of some barbarous person. I am sure they would be very unhappy to see the person who ruined their lives just getting a few years of imprisonment or mere rehabilitation.

Consider the example of the rapist and killer given above. Now, suppose the woman raped was your wife, sister, or daughter. How would you feel knowing that the person who ruined your family is calmly enjoying the benefits of an asylum and an air-conditioned room, funded by you the taxpayer? Anti-death penalty supporters believe that death penalty is barbarous. Well! So is murder. Capital punishment to me is not revenge. Rather, it is a matter of putting an end to a life that has no value for other human lives. Sentencing a murderer to death is in fact a favor to the society. Despite the moral arguments concerning the inhumane treatment of the criminal, we return to the "nature" of the crime committed.

Can society place an unequal weight on the tragically lost lives of murder victims and the criminal? This is not an exam question in a college philosophy course but a moral conundrum at the core of perhaps the most intriguing issue facing our society today. Punishment is meted out because of the nature of the crime, devoid of any reference to the social identity of the victim. I believe that if one cannot value the life of another human being, then one's own life has no value. If you see no value in a life, why should yours be deemed valuable? 

Capital punishment is just and serves a definite purpose of reducing crime as well as bringing justice to the criminals and innocent.

In order to serve its purpose, it must be adjusted and made more effective and efficient, but not abolished. The justice system has changed dramatically in over the years in order to make sure that the rightly accused is brought to justice. I believe that capital punishment should not be abolished as it ensures the safety of the society and brings justice to those who have suffered. As I sign off, let me drop this on you: God Himself believes in the death penalty. I'll let you figure it out. In the meantime, hang 'em high!

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Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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