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Govt finally scraps off hangman post

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.  
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.

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Batswana owe banks P79 billion

27th March 2023

The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.

Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.

“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.

She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.

On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.

It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.

Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.

According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.

Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.

“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.

She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.

“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.  Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.

He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.

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How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor

27th March 2023

The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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