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CJ ‘Butterfly’ case late alarm irks LSB

The Chief Justice (CJ), Terence Rannowane’s delayed alarm on the high profile case of spy agent Welheminah Maswabi codenamed Butterfly has irked the Law Society of Botswana which has accused the CJ of hypocrisy and posturing saying he was a part of a panel of 5 judges that heard the state’s appeal against Maswabi but never raised his evidence fabrication concerns in the ruling, only to do so through a letter to the president, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

In the said letter, Rannowane says: “We are all aware of the Wilheminah Maswabi case, where the accused was brought to court on fabricated evidence. That particular case caused untold reputational damage to our criminal justice system, not just here at home but abroad. As head of the judiciary I get concerned when our institutions professional image takes a hit. In fact, I am on record in one of my legal year speeches expressing regret about the tendency of charging people first and investigating the case thereafter.”

But the Law Society says the Chief Justice’s delayed outcry is not as helpful. “The Chief Justice was a part of a panel of 5 judges that heard the appeal by the State against Wilhemina Maswabi. He had the opportunity, in the judgment of Court of Appeal, to record his conviction that the evidence on which Maswabi was arrested and brought to court was fabricated. It is in judgments that judges express their views concerning matters serving before them, not in letters,” said the LSB chairperson Tshekiso Tshekiso in response to this publication.

Although the appeal was not determined on the fabrication of the evidence, Tshekiso says, “it being admitted by the State that the evidence was fabricated, and accepted by the court, one would have expected that the court would have dedicate some passages of the judgment to this, and issue a firm rebuke, lest an impression is created that the court takes lightly, arrests and registration of cases on fabricated evidence.”

He continued: “The Law Society strongly condemns the fabrication of evidence in this particular case and in all others cases that may have escaped the public eye. If not rooted out, this will cripple the justice system, and breed lawlessness, including self-help, more abuse of power and corruption.”

Last month, a full bench composed of Judge President, Tebogo Tau, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane as well as Justices Isaac Lesetedi, Lakvinder Walia and Tshepo Motswagole reversed acquittal of Butterfly on financing-of-terrorism charge after High Court Judge Dr Zein Kebonang discharged and acquitted her on all charges levelled against her- possession of unexplained property, false declaration of a passport and financing terrorism which had been withdrawn by the state with leave to reinstate it.

In the judgement, written by Justice Tau and endorsed by the other four including the CJ, CoA ruled that Kebonang’s order to discharge Maswabi of the possession-of-unexplained-property and false declaration charges was proper. However, the CoA found his acquittal of Maswabi on the financing terrorism charge to be improper because she had already been discharged on it and there was no need to revisit it. On such basis, the Court found that “it was incompetent of the High Court to acquit [Maswabi] on all charges levelled against her.” Resultantly, the CoA ruled that “the acquittal order in respect of charges brought against [Maswabi] is set aside.”

The ruling means that state now has the option of reinstating the financing terrorism charge because it has preserved liberty to reinstate it.

“Butterfly” was implicated alongside former President Ian Khama, former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi and South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe for allegedly stealing P100 billion from Bank of Botswana. Upon turning the heat on the state to produce evidence of their claims, the state failed to, leading the Justice Kebonang to rule in her favour and further calling the President to crack the whip on law enforcement agents for fabricating evidence.

Commenting on the CJ-Butterfly case revelations, a legal expert at the University of Botswana said the revelation by the CJ speaks to the integrity of the Court of Appeal and shows how politics triumphs over justice. “Knowing that charges have been fabricated, the court still says the charges must be maintained. When the CoA is compromised that becomes self evident even in their judgments. The rule of law is undermined. Shocking however is that there are no consequences for those that engaged in this exercise. Impunity is now to be extended to all .It does not. What it does reveal is that the judiciary is not immune from dishonesty and capture. The CoA has knowingly condemned butterfly. The CJ was part of that decision making. What does it say about him too.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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