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Pope Francis appeal against death penalty


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.  

BOTSWANA’S POSITION

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.

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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