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Home » News » General » Rising murder cases scornful of death penalty

Rising murder cases scornful of death penalty

Publishing Date : 27 February, 2018

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

Cases of murder in Botswana are escalating despite the intervention of law mechanisms in the form of the death penalty.


Botswana is the only country in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that still upholds and practices the death penalty as other member states have either abolished the exercise in law or in practice. Indications suggest that the executions are in practice bearing no fruits as citizens continue to kill each other for various reasons – including trivial ones. Statistics turned up by WeekendPost indicate that murder has been escalating since 2015 through to 2016 and recently 2017.


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 whooping 305 murder cases registered. Police records further indicate that during 2017 a total number of 70 murder cases were recorded from January to March, 81 from March to June and 51 from June to September summing to 202. The recorded cases from September to December were however not immediately availed to this publication upon request.


It is also still unclear how many cases have gone un-recorded between the years or in cases of when the victims have gone missing without a trace. Botswana Police Assistant Public Relations Officer (PRO) Jayson Chabota stated to this publication in an interview on Wednesday that “during the festive season police operations that ran from 18th December 2017 to 3rd January 2018, recorded a total of 22 murder cases”.


According to Chabota, this shows a glaring increase as compared to 20 cases registered during the same period in 2016. When asked on the reasons for these growing murder cases, the Police mouthpiece pointed out that “most murder cases were as a result of killings related to love affairs and misunderstandings that erupted at drinking places.” A highly regarded lecturer of Social Work at the University of Botswana (UB) Kgomotso Jongman hinted that death penalty is not a deterrent all.


“We have reached a state of hopelessness where nothing matters. Death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent but when people got nothing to lose it’s not a deterrent anymore,” he said. Take an example of a 19 year old in Mogoditshane who was on bail owing to murder, he went on and killed another person again, he highlighted while adding that “he knows he is going to be killed anyway”.


Jongman’s sentiments were also shared by Keletso Tshekiso; a reputable Counselor serving as the Publicity Secretary of the Botswana Counseling Association who was firm that capital punishment is proving to be counterproductive. She explained that “in punishment, the stimulus propelling the undesired behavior decreases the likelihood of repetition of that behavior in future. So you can’t punish a dead person because they won’t feel anything. In short you are just eliminating that individual. It may not be considered as punishment by another person until they too face death sentence. So to many, ‘capital punishment is just an angry law’ which eliminates the murderers (perpetrators) and not murder (action).”  


In addition, the professional Counselor noted that there are quite a number of reasons while people kill, like social influences, issues of power relations, cognitive and intellectual impairment and added that the reasons keep on increasing. Some human rights renowned local attorneys such as Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm, Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys and Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners continues to call for the abolishment of the capital punishment. 


When sharing his legal thoughts to WeekendPost on Thursday, Ndadi said: “I do not know what plays in the mind of a murderer, but I doubt if a murderer thinks of the consequences at the time. He continued: “the proponents of capital punishment argue that it serves as a deterrent, does it? NO!!!” On the other hand, he stated that he knows that it is wrong and barbaric to kill, and to him it doesn’t matter under what circumstances, unless of course it is in self defence.


“It doesn’t matter to me whether the killing is as a result of death penalty or crime, it is wrong. The argument that a punishment must fit the crime committed holds true but not to the extent of repeating the crime,” he pointed out. “That is why we do not rape people who rape, steal from those who steal, beat up those who beat others (even their spouses and partners) for we know it is wrong to do so. But why do we find it okay to kill?” he asked. The esteemed human rights attorney highlighted that he is aware that the Court of Appeal has declared death penalty in Botswana to be constitutional.


“I have a problem with that because any person has a right to life and dignity. The right to life must be preserved by government as well. No one should be licensed to kill by any law. The government must take the lead in showing how precious life is, and not follow what murderers do. Otherwise it is like punishing a child for doing what you yourself do to the child or others.”


Another well regarded attorney Rantao, has in recent reports, called for the abolishment of the death penalty on grounds that it is evil, irreversible, discriminatory and just a form of retribution that solves absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, while countries across the globe continue to dispose of the practice, Botswana still continues to enforce on it having executed approximately more than 53 people since independence in 1966, most of which were said to be men. Put mildly, Botswana carries out roughly 1 execution per year.


The death penalty is provided for in the supreme law being the constitution section 4(1) which states that: “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offence under the law in force in Botswana of which he has been convicted.” According to the Botswana Penal Code (which enforces capital punishment) section 202: “any person who of malice aforethought causes the death of another person by an unlawful copyright Government of Botswana act or omission is guilty of murder.”


It posits in section 203 that “subject to the provisions of subsection (2), any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death. (2) Where a court in convicting a person of murder is of the opinion that there are extenuating circumstances, the court may impose any sentence other than death. (3) In deciding whether or not there are any extenuating circumstances the court shall take into consideration the standards of behaviour of an ordinary person of the class of the community to which the convicted person belongs.”


The technique for the execution of death sentence in Botswana is also pronounced under section 26(1) of the Penal code which posits that “when any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he shall be hanged by the neck until he is dead.” Meanwhile, on behalf of government, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu is adamant that the death penalty will continue to be practised.


He said this when speaking at the 29th session of the third cycle review report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) two weeks back at Geneva, Switzerland. He stated at the high level meeting that “Botswana’s view on “the question of death penalty” remains unchanged, and the death penalty remains a competent sentence under the laws of Botswana.”


He continued to highlight that, in that regard, “government holds the view that the death penalty is not a human rights violation, or a form of torture, but rather a matter of criminal justice. Like every country, we retain the sovereign right to independently decide our own criminal justice system, including the retention of the death penalty,” he maintained.


He also explained that while the country does not begrudge those who have abolished it or imposed a moratorium on executions, it equally expects that they too should respect their right to determine whether it abolishes or retains it, as a criminal justice sanction, in accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However Batshu said the Botswana government was however aware that there could be some genuine concern about the application of the death penalty in some parts of the world.


He further told the global gathering that “let me assure you that in Botswana, we have robust laws and institutions including an independent judiciary in order to ensure that there is no arbitrary imposition of the death sentence. Nonetheless, Government intends to hold public debates on the death penalty over the coming period, and Botswana would welcome technical and financial assistance to carry out such an exercise.”

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