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From OP to DPP: Keetshabe’s new role quizzed

Abram Merryweather Keetshabe

President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama’s decision to appoint current Office of the President (OP) and his legal advisor Abram Merryweather Keetshabe to the position of Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) effective 1st of March 2016 has been received with less enthusiasm by some in the law fraternity.

Keetshabe replaces former Director in the Public Prosecution Leornard Sechele who served in the portfolio for five years until his resignation in June last year which was followed by his untimely passing 3 months later. Sechele succeeded Leatile Dambe who was appointed High Court Judge.

“I can confirm that indeed Merryweather Keetshabe has been appointed to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions at the Attorney General’s Chambers with effect 1st of next month (March),” Government Chief Jeff Ramsay confirmed to WeekendPost in an interview on Thursday. He fills the shoes of the late Sechele, Ramsay continued.

A renowned local attorney Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole Attorneys has stated categorically that “I think there are more deserving people who have dedicated their lives to the DPP in the likes of Matlhogonolo Phuthego, Kabo Leinaeng, Wesson Manchwe,” who could have been considered for the position.

Motswagole continued: “all those gentlemen are career prosecutors. So to reward them with an external boss really says a lot about the current administration.” The notorious attorney emphasizes that to transplant someone from OP undermines their efforts.

According to Ramsay, Keetshabe has accepted the offer and it is a given that he will occupy the lucrative position. The reasons for the appointment are that there was an opening at the DPP and the government had confidence in only Keetshabe to take it up.

“Keetshabe deserves the portfolio as he is a qualified legal Counsel and he has won many cases in favour of government including the infamous CKGR case which rutted government against Basarwa,” he said.

Having acquired a Bachelor of law Degree from University of Botswana, in incorporation with Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, Keetshabe has before the position of General Counsel at OP, also served as; deputy Attorney General (AG) (Civil Litigation), he was also at one point a Master of the High Court, a Deputy Registrar and also a magistrate.

It is understood that, while as deputy AG, he allegedly threatened to abruptly resign from the position following his failed bid to be considered for judge-man-ship at the High Court failed -after trying his luck. However he later made a u-turn on the move and incongruously almost a month later was selected legal advisor to OP.

Prior to that, a position almost similar – special advisor to the president – was occupied by Sydney Pilane under the Mogae administration and when Khama ascended to the office he dropped him, and after sometime appointed Keetshabe. Since then, Pilane and Khama have not seen eye to eye.

However in many instances Ramsay has emphasized that Keetshabe’s position was a General Counsel for the entire OP and not only special advisor to President Khama.

Keetshabe leaves the latter position at OP vacant and Ramsay states that he is “not sure who replaces him at OP as it has not yet been announced or let alone appointment made.”

Another top notch attorney Joram Matomela of JJ Matomela Attorneys also expressed disappointment at the appointment. “Keetshabe’s appointment with regard to more qualifying officers who had applied for the job, who have more experience with prosecutions, is a vote of no confidence on those officers and will further kill the little morale, if there has been anything left since the departure of Leatile Dambe, in that department,” he asserted.

Matomela stressed that the appointment further undermines the independence of the office as Keetshabe has been working directly under the president and the appointment is more like a secondment.

“There is likely to be a perception that the OP is placing officers who are loyal to the regime in view of the fact that even the late Sechele was from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). Some may ask ‘what orders are they being given when handed this post’the celebrated lawyer wondered rhetorically.

However Government mouthpiece emphasized to this publication that, Keetshabe, who will go down in history as the first Motswana to be appointed Chief magistrate, is an experienced and highly respected legal Counsel.

However Ramsay would not be drawn to discuss why some inside cadres were not considered for the top post when probed on the issue by WeekendPost.

“The office of the DPP requires an Independent minded; fearless; sober minded; with high ethical standards must have the attributes of a judge. Knowledgeable in criminal law and evidence,” eminent lawyer Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners also pointed out.

He said the interface of the Constitutional architect of the office of the Attorney General and the DPP ‘‘is a source of great concern for me’’. The Constitution requires that the DPP consult the AG in cases of public importance and we are not told the criteria for determining cases of public importance, he observed.

According to Dingake: “we do not know who must make that determination. It's unclear what the consultation involves, whether it's for information purposes or for decision making as to prosecute or not. Whatever the case that is an encroachment in the prosecutorial functions of the DPP and the exercise of the said powers.”

The office of the Attorney General, he said is advisorial to the Executive and a member thereof. “In this regard it appears to be a strategic and tactical deployee of the Executive arm to thwart prosecutions of matters which the Executive may have interests on.”

The shrewd lawyer indicated that over the years there has been subtle suggestions that matters of national importance be whatever they are, cannot be prosecuted without the consent of the AG. ‘‘This is inimical to the independence of the office of the DPP which lies at the heart of its efficiency,’’ he said.

“The recruitment of the DPP, from the advert, is done by the AG. Why should that be the case if not to influence the appointment of an otherwise compliant person?” In my respectful view there is always a danger of populating independent institutions with people with an executive culture – these are people who professionally grew or appear to have grown within the executive branch or have a long and strong association with the executive, Dingake stated.  

Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi also confirmed Keetshabe’s new role in government this week: “I am pleased to announce the following appointments of Senior Public officers; Advocate Abraham M. Keetshabe is appointed to the office of Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General’s Chambers with effect from date of assumption of duty.”

Meanwhile Carter also announced the appointment of Mr. Shabani S. Chikanda who is appointed on promotion to the position of Parliamentary Council with effect from 01st March, 2016.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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