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An eye for an eye: Botswana stands by capital punishment

The use of capital punishment remains a controversial issue, with proponents arguing that it serves as a deterrent and justice for heinous crimes, while opponents argue that it is inhumane, ineffective, and risks executing innocent people. Many countries around the world have abolished the death penalty, but Botswana remains among jurisdictions that resist international pressure to end the practice 

There are still governments that resist international pressure to end capital punishment, despite growing opposition to the practice. Botswana has been among poster boys when it comes to practicing capital punishment, but it is not alone — it is in the company of many.

One of the most high-profile cases of a government resisting international pressure to end capital punishment is that of the United States. The U.S. is one of the few Western countries that still executes its citizens, and its use of the death penalty has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Despite calls from human rights organizations and other countries to end the practice, many U.S. states continue to use the death penalty as a form of punishment.

In 2020, the U.S. carried out 17 executions, the second-highest number in the world after China. The federal government resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus and executed 13 people in total, despite protests from human rights activists and organizations. In addition to the federal government, several U.S. states, including Texas, Florida, and Alabama, have also continued to use the death penalty.

China is another country that has resisted international pressure to end capital punishment. The Chinese government does not release official figures on the number of people executed each year, but it is believed to be in the thousands. Many of these executions are for non-violent crimes such as drug offenses, and China has been criticized for its lack of due process and use of forced confessions.

Other countries that continue to use the death penalty include Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. In Iran, the death penalty is used for a range of crimes, including drug offenses and adultery, and many executions are carried out in public.

Botswana has totally turned ignored pressure by international human rights activists and institutions to abolish death penalty, making it the only country in Southern Africa that support death penalty. A fortnight ago, two men joined the death row, with one Atholang Mujanji’s appeal against a death sentence from the High Court set aside by the Court of Appeal and one Unangoni Alton sentenced to death by High Court judge Chris Gabanagae.

Both men were sentenced to hang by the neck until they die due to lack of extenuating circumstances on their cases. Similarly they were convicted of murder of their female partners. Though it is not clear yet as to how many inmates are currently on the death row, Ditshwanelo’s statistics show that over 30 inmates have been hanged since 1966 and it seems Mujanji will add to the list.

DEATH PENALTY IS A CONSTITUTIONAL IMPERATIVE- DR KIRBY

Former Judge President of Botswana’s Court of Appeal (CoA) Dr Ian Kirby recently confessed that many attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty and execution of persons by hanging. However, they have failed, as it is a method of execution preserved as lawful by the constitution itself.

Kirby said for the status qou to change, Batswana themselves will have to abolish the death penalty by amending the constitution by a popular vote as provided in the constitution. However, this may not happen anytime soon.

“Successive parliaments have declined to do so until the present day, even the most recent constitutional review determined that the majority of those consulted were not in favour of abolition of the death penalty,” said Kirby.

He further stated that while the courts have consistently upheld the lawfulness of the death penalty in terms of the constitution, judges, and justices have frequently expressed their disquiet at the extreme and unalterable nature of the penalty once imposed and implemented.

“It is only cases that attract the ultimate penalty, with extenuating circumstances being widely interpreted.  Types of cases which might even today be met by the ultimate penalty are; repeat of murder by convicts, murder in the course of a robbery or of acts of terrorism, assassinations for reward, sadistic or depraved killings, murder of police officers to avoid arrest, cold-blooded or pre-planned murders, or the murders of innocent and defenseless women or children,” he said.

Kirby emphasized that it is parliament which must be persuaded to take the step of abolishing capital punishment.

 

MUJANJI’S CASE

Presiding CoA Judge Lakhvinder Singh Walia condemned Mujanji to capital punishment, a former police officer, on the basis that the High Court was not faulted for finding that there were no extenuating circumstances and sentencing Mujanji to the only permissible sentences in the circumstances.

Mujanji has been convicted of the murder of Bokani Socks that occurred on the 3rd of January 2014 in Francistown. Walia wrote in his judgement that before the High Court, submissions on extenuating circumstances that were made in writing were: Absence of pre-meditation, amorous relationships, effects of the relevance of pregnancy, emotional stress and drug abuse.

According to Walia, there was no evidence of some of the submissions above. He further wrote that the murder was an obvious case of pre-meditation as Mujanji had concealed a knife to complete the death but when the stabbing failed, he bludgeoned the deceased to death with a stone and attempted to set her alight.

“The aggravating factors, on the other hand, are obvious. The appellant deceived the deceased into going for a drive and in a secluded area took her life in a brutal attack, tried to set her alight and left her at the mercy of the elements and scavenging animals,” reads Walia’s judgement.

According to Walia’s verdict, the sum total of the prosecution evidence is that Mujanji was in an abusive relationship with the deceased who moved to Tati Siding to escape the abuse, and that on the 3rd of January 2014, Mujanji took the deceased life, further, haunted by her visions thereafter he approached Pastor Socks for assistance and made a confession of what he has done.

“On this account, the court a quo cannot be faulted for coming to the conclusion that the prosecution evidence was unchallenged. The court a quo dealt with the defence evidence and found it to be false beyond reasonable doubt,” wrote Walia.

Walia further wrote that the High Court has properly convicted Mujanji of murder as he was the last person to see the deceased alive and the manner in which he took her life appears in graphic detail in his confession to the pastor.

He further authored that, that account leaves no doubt that he intended to kill her and malice aforethought was established. Walia indicated that Mujanji’s counsel has raised on extenuating factor that Mujanji was aggrieved by his lover being pregnant by another man.

“This submission is entirely without substance. There is no evidence of the deceased’s pregnancy, and none of the deceased’s relatives testified in court was confronted with any allegations of pregnancy. Furthermore, the relationship between them ended in 2013,” authored Walia. Walia was assisted by CoA judge Isaac Lesetedi and Goemekgabo Tebogo-Maruping.

 

ALTON’S CASE

Alton was convicted on a single count of the murder of Keneilwe Mogomotsi back in October 2012. Gabanagae sentenced Alton on the basis that extenuating circumstances in the case do not exist. He further stated that at the age of 25 years, the accused was old enough to appreciate that killing another human being was wrong. This came after the defense attorney submitted in mitigation that at the time of the commission of the offence, Alton was relatively young at the age of 25.

Gabanagae further stated that in determining whether extenuating circumstances are present in the case, section 203(3) of the Penal code requires the court to also have regard to the standard of behaviour of an ordinary person of the class of the community to which the convicted person belongs.

He further stated that there were eight stab wounds on different parts of the deceased’s body. “There were also defensive wounds on her hands demonstrating that she was trying to block the accused’s knife,” said Gabanagae.

According to Gabanagae’s judgement, the forensic pathologist stated that the deceased died a violent death and what Alton had done could be termed as “overkill”.

“I find that the murder of the deceased is aggravated in nature. Accused went to see or talk to deceased with a knife in possession. He had every intent to at least inflict harm or pain on the deceased, and not just to talk. The wounds inflicted on the deceased and the manner in which she was killed was brutal,” said Gabanagae.

He further said that Alton repeatedly cut the deceased’s neck to ensure that she was dead. He further alluded that Alton was not so intoxicated as he had the strength to drag a person who was resisting from outside into the house , stabbed her numerous times and cut her throat then left the knife stuck deeply in the deceased’s neck then locked the door and jumped over the fence and fled the scene.

“The accused stated in his confession statement that the deceased asked him to have sex with her, and he refused, it is intriguing how she would ask him to have sex with him and at the same time hurled insults at him,” said Gabanagae.

Gabanagae concluded that the deceased was found naked at the scene, she was probably raped before she was killed.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS BOTSWANA TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY

Amnesty International recommended Botswana to urgently abolish the death penalty for all crimes at their submission to the UN committee against torture on 29 July 2022. They called the authorities to introduce a moratorium on executions and initiate an informed national public debate aimed at promoting the full abolition of the death penalty. The institution further called Botswana to remove from national legislation provisions that violate international human rights law and standards, including by removing the mandatory death penalty for all offences.

“Ensure that those facing execution, their family members and legal representative are promptly informed of the set time of the execution, and that bodies are returned to family members should they wish to receive them,” read their recommendations.

They further called to Botswana to ensure that all persons facing the death penalty, including those from disadvantaged or marginalized socio-economic backgrounds to be provided with access to competent legal assistance, from the moment of arrest or when they first face criminal charges, all the way through to appeals and other recourse procedures, and ensure that Legal Aid is provided sufficient resources to appoint competent pro bono lawyers in all regions and Support international initiatives in favour of ending executions and abolishing the death penalty.

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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Unions brace for showdown as demands for 15% pay hike intensify

15th April 2024

As tensions mount between public service unions and the government, the prospect of a major strike looms large. The unions, representing hundreds of thousands of workers across the country, are demanding a 15% pay increase, arguing that public sector employees have been undercompensated for years. The government, however, has so far refused to accede to the unions’ demands, setting the stage for a potential confrontation that could have far-reaching implications for both public services and the broader economy.

There are fears that public service unions may embark on industrial action should their members give the leadership of the unions the greenlight to do so as they push for a 15 percent salary hike. This comes amid reports that pressure is mounting on government to increase salaries for five Cooperating Unions (BLLAHWU, BOPEU, BONU, BOSETU, BTU). The latest development is likely to escalate tensions between the two parties.

According to the coordinator of the five unions, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, the leadership of the unions would hold country wide mass workers rallies/meetings on the 22nd – 24th April 2024, to update and consult public servants on adjourned salary negotiations with Government through Directorate of  Public Service Management (DPSM).

The rallies come after the unions had proposed 15% salary increment to cushion workers against purchasing power but could failed to reach a positive outcome with the government.

“Believing that workers as creators of wealth, deserve a stake in redistribution of benefits the economy, the   Unions in their proposal are pushing for equity,” said Motshegwa.

He said a key objective of compensation administration is to ensure internal & external equity in the payment of salary & other benefits. “Internal equity refers to the payment of equal compensation for jobs of similar nature and worth within the organisation. The Employer Party’s Position Paper is silent on this key principle despite recent developments that violate it,” he said.  Another issue, Motshegwa explained is relates to protection of workers welfare.

“As a matter of human rights, wages should be sufficient to accord the worker and his/her household an acceptable standard of living. Further, wage adjustments should protect workers’ welfare. This means protecting real wages from erosion by inflation. The Employer party does not address this most critical of issues even though the Union Party explicitly raised it,” he said. Regarding motivation and staff morale, Motshegwa said wage setting is also fundamentally about motivating workers.

“It matters not only what workers are offered but also how internal relativities are affected. Workers can be demotivated not only by low salary adjustments but also by discriminatory treatment,” said Motshegwa.

PERSPECTIVE

At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental question: do public sector workers deserve a significantly higher wage than they currently receive? Unions argue that public servants are essential to the functioning of society, and that they have been systematically undermined by years of austerity measures. They point to recent pay increases in the private sector, which have significantly outpaced public sector wages, as evidence of a growing disparity that needs to be addressed.

The government, for its part, has historically been reluctant to grant substantial pay increases to public sector workers, citing concerns about fiscal sustainability and the need to balance budgets. In its view, the current wage demands represent an unsustainable burden that could jeopardize the provision of essential public services.

The stakes could not be higher for both sides. For the unions, a successful wage campaign could be a transformative moment, reaffirming the power of collective bargaining and the essential role of public sector workers. It could also strengthen the hand of labor movements across the country, emboldening workers to demand better wages and working conditions in other sectors.

For the government, a major strike would be a political and economic nightmare, disrupting vital services and potentially triggering a broader crisis of confidence in its ability to govern. It would also put enormous pressure on the government to find a way to resolve the dispute, potentially leading to concessions that could set a precedent for future wage demands in the public sector.

As the deadline for the current round of negotiations approaches, the tension is palpable. Unions are stepping up their efforts to mobilize support among their members and the public at large, painting a stark picture of the consequences of further wage stagnation. They are organizing mass rallies and strike votes, aiming to put maximum pressure on the government to back down.

The government, for its part, is digging in its heels, issuing stern warnings about the economic and political fallout of a major strike. It is exploring options for maintaining essential services in the event of a strike, such as bringing in temporary workers or invoking emergency powers.

As the nation preplies for the momentous decision that lies ahead, one thing is certain: the public sector unions are not backing down. They have made their demands clear, and they are prepared to fight for what they believe is their rightful due. The government, for its part, is equally resolved, ready to defend its position at all costs. The stage is set for a showdown that will determine the fate of public sector workers, the labor movement, and the very future of our society.

The question remains: will the government’s austerity agenda prevail, or will the demands of the workers ultimately carry the day? The answer will shape the course of history, and the world will be watching as this epic battle unfolds. The stakes could not be higher, and the nation holds its breath in anticipation of the momentous decision that lies ahead.

The public sector unions know that their fight is not just about themselves. It is about the millions of people they serve, the patients they care for, the students they teach, and the infrastructure they maintain. It is about the dignity and respect of every public servant, and the fundamental right of workers to a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

The government, for its part, is well aware of the potential consequences of a major strike. It knows that a disruption of public services would erode confidence in its ability to govern, and that a prolonged battle with the unions would be a political and economic nightmare. It is therefore unlikely to back down without a fight.

The stage is set for a confrontation that will test the mettle of both sides. The unions will push for everything they can get, knowing that their bargaining power is at its peak. The government, meanwhile, will dig in its heels, determined to defend its position at all costs. The outcome of this battle will determine the future of public services, the labor movement, and perhaps even the direction of the country itself.

 

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