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.
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.
About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.
For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.