NEW-YORK: Pope Francis, who is regarded by most leaders as a moral authority and an inspiration to the globe and its leadership, has called for the "global abolition" of the death penalty.
Addressing the United States of America’s joint meeting of Congress, the Pope who is held in high regard by US President, Barrack Obama said, “Every life is sacred, every human is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”
Botswana is one of the proud countries practicing capital punishment and has vowed to never relent, saying it does not agree that they are in violation of Article 6 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because Article 6 (2) recognizes that the death sentence may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of commission of the crime.
Botswana Centre for Human Rights or Ditshwanelo has been at the forefront of the campaign against the death penalty, calling on government to reconsider its stance on the issue.
"I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation," the Pope said.
The Pope arrived in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, starting off his six-day East Coast trip. He travelled to New York on Thursday evening and will spend the weekend in Philadelphia.
For many years the death penalty has not been a controversial issue in Botswana according to former University of Botswana law lecturer, Professor Kwame Frimpong who taught at the University of Botswana from 1984 to 2007. “Two high profile executions in 2001 and 2003 of Marietta Bosch and Lehlohonolo Kobedi, respectively, aroused the current interest in the death penalty debate. It is also partly due to an awareness campaign waged by DITSHWANELO -The Botswana Centre for Human Rights,” he said in his paper on the death penalty.
The death penalty came with the 1964 Penal Code which made a made a provision for capital punishment by hanging. The Constitution of Botswana, which came into force on 30 September 1966, specifically includes an exception to the right to life for the death penalty imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Currently, the following crimes are punishable by death under the Penal Code: murder, Treason, Instigating a foreigner to invade Botswana and Committing assault with intent to murder in the course of the commission of piracy.
Three offences under the Botswana Defence Force Act, tried by a court martial, are also punishable by death and these include aiding the enemy, mutiny and coward behavior. Botswana has already, amidst some quarters’ protests condemned over fifty people to death through the death penalty. Former president, Festus Mogae however is on record expressing concern that the current judicial system is hell-bent on undermining the constitution and shying away from sentencing wrongdoers to death.
In his last presentation to the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, in Geneva, Switzerland, former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, when presenting the national report said the country had no intentions of abolishing the death penalty.
The United Kingdom, Denmark and Netherlands enquired on the abolition of the death penalty or a moratorium on its application. “We do not agree that we are in violation of Article 6 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because Article 6 (2) recognizes that the death sentence may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of commission of the crime. In line with Article 6 (2) of the ICCPR, in Botswana the death sentence is imposed for serious crimes being murder without extenuating circumstances and treason,” he said.
The position of the government of Botswana, he said, is that there were no plans to either abolish capital punishment or impose a moratorium on its application. “In 1997 the Parliamentary Law Reform Committee produced a report on public opinion on the death penalty, which was tabled before Parliament. The findings of the report showed that the public was in favour of retaining the death penalty. Currently public opinion on the death penalty affirms support for its retention,” he told the full house before rejecting the recommendations after being asked to at least improve the transparency of the clemency process in the death penalty system.
As things stand, the word of the Pope may not carry any weight or have any significance to Botswana except with the change of government. Obama has however said that he welcomes the Pope’s voice and leadership. The main opposition leader, Duma Boko, a strong opponent of the death penalty is on record saying if he was to become President of Botswana, he is committed to seeking a moratorium on executions or outright repeal of the death penalty: "…when I am at the helm of that government, I will not sign anybody's death warrant whether the law says so or not."
Currently a small quarter of African countries practice capital punishment. Mozambique and Namibia abolished it in 1990, followed by South Africa in 197, Ivory Coast in 2000, Liberia in 2005, Rwanda in 2007, Burundi in 2009 and Togo and Gabon in 2010.
Opponents of the death penalty say it is being arbitrarily implemented and doesn't serve a purpose to deter crime.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.