Botswana’s international reputation as a haven for wildlife could be at risk because of the country’s inability to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes effectively.
Normal practice is such that when investigations of crimes are complete cases are then passed to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) which has the mandate to try the cases on behalf of the State before courts. However it has come clear at the recent Joint Law Enforcement Forum that the two parties are fighting a losing battle in the courts due to lack of cooperation.
A closed joint law enforcement meeting was recently held at Maun Lodge, and the top agenda was to plot out how relevant security agencies could tackle their failures in wildlife crimes court cases. The forum summoned senior officials from security agencies comprising of the Botswana Police Services, Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Prisons Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Directorate of Intelligence on Security and Services.
Presiding over the forum was Divisional Commander North, Senior Assistant Commissioner, Dinah Marathe who revealed that from the comprehensive analysis of cases they handle indications are that the country is failing to adequately deal with wildlife crimes. Marathe expressed that improved cooperation between law enforcement agencies, prosecution and the courts could contribute immensely in the reduction and possible elimination of wildlife crimes.
Marathe asserted that it was vital for Botswana law enforcement agencies to share information and technical expertise with a view to increasing their knowledge capacity.
It was revealed that the Northern Region is the most affected district. North Western part of Botswana is rich in biodiversity and home to many endangered species of wild fauna and flora. As a result the region is regarded a hotspot for wildlife crimes and illegal cross border activities.
Marathe explained that there was need for the country’s law enforcers to interrogate their capabilities with a view to investigating and prosecuting cases of wildlife crimes more effectively. The Divisional Commander demonstrated that cooperation among the investigators and prosecutors is not satisfactory. “Common standards for investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes will be an important step towards improved cooperation among us,” stressed Marathe.
According to Marathe the country needs to come up with strategies to close existing gaps in the country’s investigations and prosecution of wildlife crimes and set the standard as a national bench mark.
Marathe stated that it was time law enforcement agencies started to enlist in their processes of wildlife crimes the use of scientific procedures to examine, identify and compare evidence from crime scenes, and to link the evidence gathered with a suspect and a victim (wild animal). She highlighted that forensic scientists have become more involved in the investigation of wild animals that are protected from hunting by laws.
Divisional Prosecutions Officer North, Omphemetse Mashiqa reiterated that there was weak communication between the investigations team and the prosecutors.
“No communication between the two cause failures, it leads to lack of common understanding of the case during trials.In the end courts fail to link our facts because of the disparities between the investigators and prosecutors,” Mashiqa pointed out.
He further advised that spontaneous prosecutions are solidified by good investigations so the two teams needed to improve to rectify their mistakes.
Mashiqa however took side for his office and charged the investigations team for the numerous errors they make during the process of investigating cases before handing them over to the prosecutions team.
He said that the investigations team normally fails to record case statements at the earliest stage of offences. Mashiqa advised that it was vital for statements to be recorded when facts of the case were still fresh in the minds of investigating officers. He complained that failure to do so lead to investigators mixing statements of different cases, a major contributor to their failures in the courts.
Mashiqa also plotted that the investigation team fails to preserve the scene where wildlife crime incidents took place. The Divisional Prosecutions Officer North warned that various interventions of the events should be avoided adding that investigators’ roles must be clearly defined. He also stressed that prosecutors are failing to understand the importance of photographing scenes which can be presented as evidence before courts.
Weekend Post can reveal that magistrate Pandliwe Taka of Maun Magistrate Court was drawn in to give her advice on the judicial side. However, when magistrate Taka was about to take the podium an urgent decision was taken to throw out the Press and turn the forum into a closed session.
Wildlife crimes are recognized as one of the largest transnational organized crimes, alongside drugs, arms and human trafficking. At a summit recently held in Kasane on the 25th March 2015, representatives of governments and regional economic integration organizations acknowledged that to successfully tackle the illegal wildlife trade demands a strong and coordinated enforcement response was essential.
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.