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Gov’t 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. ʉ۬Two years ago in 2018, the number further escalated to 316, reaching an all-time high Рwhile 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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7th December 2021
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has identified at least 12 cabinet ministers who form part of his long-term plans owing to their loyalty and tenacity in delivering his vision. Masisi, who will see-off his term in 2028 — provided he wins re-election in 2024 — already knows key people who will help him govern until the end of his term, WeekendPost has learnt.

Despite negative criticism towards ministers from some quarters over a number of decisions and their somewhat cold deliberations and failure to articulate government programs, Masisi is said to be a number one cheer leader of his cabinet. He is said to have more confidence in his cabinet and believes going forward they will reach the aspired levels and silence the critics.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

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WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

6th December 2021
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In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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