In recent years, Botswana has faced numerous challenges in its pursuit of a child-friendly justice system. Despite its commitment to upholding the rights of children, the country has been plagued by a system that fails to prioritize serious crimes such as rape. This crisis has been further exacerbated by inconsistencies in legal representation for children in conflict with the law, as well as a lack of accountability for professionals within the justice system. It is imperative that Botswana takes immediate action to transform its justice system, ensuring a just and equitable society for all its children.
Stepping Stones, a children and youth advocacy non-profit organisation, had collaborated with the University of Botswana and carried out 327 interviews involving police, social welfare, health, courts , education, legal aid, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and others in Francistown, Gaborone, Letlhakane, Maun and Tsabong. According to the organisation, Children and families who had been in contact with the justice system also participated and shared their experiences.
The study was launched this week in Thamaga under the theme “Transforming the justice system for a just Botswana,” by the Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni.
One of the most alarming findings of the research conducted by Stepping Stone International is the lack of priority given to serious crimes against children, particularly cases of rape. These heinous acts not only inflict physical and emotional trauma on the victims but also undermine the very fabric of society. It is disheartening to see that the justice system fails to treat these crimes with the urgency and severity they deserve. By neglecting to prioritize the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, Botswana sends a message that the rights and well-being of its children are not a top priority.
Furthermore, the research report highlights the inconsistency in legal representation for children in conflict with the law. Every child, regardless of their circumstances, deserves access to competent legal representation. However, the report reveals that many children are left without adequate legal support, leaving them vulnerable to unfair treatment and unjust outcomes. This inconsistency not only violates the rights of these children but also perpetuates a cycle of injustice and inequality.
Another critical issue identified in the report is the lack of accountability within the justice system. Professionals responsible for upholding the rights of children are not held accountable for their actions or inactions. This weak accountability system allows for negligence and misconduct to go unchecked, further eroding the trust and confidence of the public in the justice system. It is essential that Botswana establishes a robust accountability framework to ensure that professionals within the justice system are held to the highest standards of integrity and competence.
To address these pressing issues, Botswana must embark on a comprehensive transformation of its justice system. This transformation should prioritize the rights and well-being of children, ensuring that they are protected from all forms of abuse and exploitation. The government must allocate adequate resources to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and the judiciary to effectively investigate, prosecute, and punish those who commit crimes against children.
Additionally, there is an urgent need to establish a standardized and consistent legal representation system for children in conflict with the law. This includes providing access to competent legal counsel, ensuring that children fully understand their rights and the legal processes they are involved in. By doing so, Botswana can guarantee that every child receives fair and just treatment within the justice system.
Moreover, the establishment of a robust accountability system is crucial to restore public trust and confidence in the justice system. Professionals within the system must be held accountable for their actions, ensuring that any misconduct or negligence is appropriately addressed. This will not only serve as a deterrent for future misconduct but also foster a culture of professionalism and integrity within the justice system.
Giving a peek on the findings of comprehensive research, Stepping Stones programmes director Beauty Magasha revealed that children’s rights in Botswana are often violated where many face violence or abuse and those cases do not even enter the justice system as they are often not reported.
She indicated that they found that justice is often not served and the process can be re-victimizing for children.
“We see that cases involving children can take up to four or five years before they are trialed and victims not receiving services such as counselling. We see that serious crimes involving children s rape are not treated as a priority , sometimes resulting n them waiting four to eight hours in the queue of a clinic,” she said.
According to Magasha, the research found that child-friendly justice principles are often not applied such as actions and decisions made in their best interest, upholding their right to information and participation, and their right to being treated with dignity, respect and being protected from discrimination.
“We see that child perpetrators are often victims themselves, coming from neglected or abusive homes or struggling with mental problems. They are often only punished and do not receive the right help or rehabilitation that prevent them relapse.”
She emphasized that professionals or sectors that apply harmful and unfriendly principles are not held accountable because of weak accountability systems.
GAPS AND CONSTRAINTS IDENTIFIED BY THE RESERCH STUDY
The report exposes that investigating ofﬁcers across the country who collect specimens for forensic testing in a wide variety of cases ranging from rape, murder, assault, and substance abuse are not adequately trained.
It further indicates that police stations from all over the country rely on only one forensic testing lab which results in excessive delays in the processing of cases for prosecution because results from the forensic laboratory are delayed.
According to the report, experts from legal practitioners and the police revealed that children lack direct access to the prosecution, court and police services for legal matters affecting them or requiring adjudicating under the jurisdiction of the children’s court, unless accompanied by an adult person contrary to the Children’s Act Section 94 (a).
“One of the ﬁve children interviewed at Ikago reported being brought before the children’s court. He reported attending three court appearances, all without any legal representation. He was never advised of his right to legal representation and counsel. The respondent thought the social worker was his lawyer,” the report said.
It is further revealed that the child brought before the magistrate reported that during one of his court appearances, he alerted the magistrate of having been assaulted by the police. However, his pleas were dismissed on account of his inability to identify the police ofﬁcers responsible for assaulting him.
“Most of the child offenders reported that police handcuffed them during their arrest hand cufﬁng of children is prohibited unless the child is a risk to themselves and or others.”
Further, Stepping Stones found that police interrogation practices involve more than two ofﬁcers mostly without the presence of a social worker or any adult for support.
“Of the seven child offender cases represented in this segment, only one went through the juvenile justice system pipeline. Recounting his experience, he told the interviewer that he perceived his treatment as fair, and the magistrate gave him an opportunity to speak his mind. The case was heard ‘in camera’. Concluding the cases, the magistrate found him guilty of burglary and gave him a suspended jail.”
According to the report, the current child justice system does not enforce or allow Victim impact statement, reading of the Miranda rights and in some instances they are arrested in the absence of caregivers and often interrogated without supportive help from social workers or caregivers which violates the children’s rights provisions.
“Our study found that Botswana does not have a sentencing protocol for child offenders. While excerpts suggest that Judicial ofﬁcers account for the offender’s age and social circumstances, individual ofﬁcer discretion may disadvantage child offenders who may not have social inquiry reports available during sentencing.”
In conclusion, the report says Botswana’s struggle for child justice is a crisis that demands immediate attention and action. The country must prioritize the prosecution and punishment of serious crimes against children, ensuring that their rights and well-being are safeguarded. Additionally, a consistent and competent legal representation system must be established for children in conflict with the law.
BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.
Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper
In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.
Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.
Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.
An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.
The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.
On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.
During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.
Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.
In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.