Ministry of Defence Justice and Security (MDJS), has finally scrapped the executioner position and handed responsibility over to the Botswana Prison Service (BPS), after the position failed to attract prospective candidates.
A hangman or executioner, also known as a "public executioner", is a person who officially carries out capital punishment ordered by the State. The executioner is usually presented with a warrant authorising or ordering him to execute the sentence. The warrant protects the executioner from the charge of murder. While this task can be occasional in nature, it can be carried out in the line of more general duty by an officer of the court, the police, prison staff, or even the military.
The immediate past Permanent Secretary (PS) at the Ministry, Segakweng Tsiane, in 2018 told Parliamentary standing committee of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the post has long been advertised but with no interest from the public. Following rejection from the public, the government has since decided to do away with the post and handed over the responsibility to the Department of Prison Service.
This week, Secretary for Safety and Security at the Ministry, Pearl Ramokoka however, contradicted the former PS’s words and told this publication that: “There is no specific post of hangman in Botswana Prison Service.” In the past Tsiane said the post has always existed in Botswana, only that it was shunned. Ramokoka who was very brief in her response to the enquiries sent to her, could not share more details in terms of advertisement of the position.
“We have in the past advertised the position and it went for a long period of time without any interest from the public,” said Tsiane when appearing before PAC. Tsiane, just like Ramokoka, could however not state when the position was advertised and how long it took without interest from the public. Neither of the qualification nor the qualities of the hangman were revealed.
WeekendPost is reliably informed that the Prison officers have now been handed the responsibility. The Ministry could not confirm neither could it share the qualities for one to carry out the duty diligently because such information is “classified”. “Due to the personal and sensitive nature of the subject matter, and the information being classified for security reasons, we cannot release or provide information to the media,” Ramokoka responded to this publication’s enquiries.
As a way of phasing out the job from the government structures, the Ministry has already introduced allowance for the prison staff that would carry out the job whenever need arises. There is nonetheless a growing concern within the Prison Services, that despite doing the job they are not accorded the adequate counselling services and allowance for the job. The allowance is a hefty 15 percent of the salary and it is fixed despite an execution taking place irregularly and infrequently.
Those condemning offenders to the gallows are lamenting that they should be given counselling prior and after the act. Furthermore, another concern from those (junior officers) carrying out the job, is the fact that they are not getting a hefty allowance associated with the act but rather the senior officers are. Responding to this publication’s questionnaire Assistant Commissioner Wamorena Ramolefhe could not help as the matter is treated as confidential.
“The subject matter is treated confidential and is not discussed openly especially through media platforms, as it affects members of the Prison Service, their families and the society.” He added that counselling is a continuous process extended to all members of the Prison Service during the discharge of their duties.
SERETSE SENT MORE CONVICTS TO THE GALLOWS
Statistics from the Ministry shows that since independence, over 55 people were given capital punishment. Founding President Sir Seretse Khama executed 17 people from 1966 – 1979. President Sir Ketumile Masire From 1981 – 1998, ensured that 15 convicts were also given the controversial capital punishment. Between 1998 and 2008, President Festus Mogae condemned eight people and from 2008 to 2018, under President Ian Khama’s reign 14 people were killed. President Masisi has already drawn first blood by executing one person.
Capital punishment has been a hot topic in the country, with some quarters calling for it to be abolished, while others belief it is a deterrent measure. According to the Botswana Police Service Annual Report for the year 2016, a total number of 278 murder cases were recorded in 2015. In 2016, the number escalated to a whopping 305 murder cases registered. In 2017, the murder cases recorded reached a monstrous 315 from the 305 in 2016. â€¨Two years ago in 2018, the number further escalated to 316, reaching an all-time high – while the death penalty is still in practice.
Botswana is the only country in Southern African Development Community (SADC), who still upholds and practices the death penalty, other member states have either abolished the exercise in law or in practice. While countries across the globe continue to dispose of the practice, Botswana still continues to enforce it, having executed approximately more than 55 people since independence in 1966, most of who were said to be men. Put mildly, Botswana carries out roughly 1 or sometimes 2 executions per year. Meanwhile, Botswana has maintained her position on death penalty over the years with recent pronouncements still on that angle.
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.