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Batswana shun hangman post

Publishing Date : 08 October, 2018

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security, Permanent Secretary Segakweng Tsiane has revealed that the Department of Prisons has struggled to recruit a hangman, leading to a backlog of prisoners in jail facing execution.


A hangman or executioner, also known as a "public executioner", is a person who officially inflicts capital punishment ordered by the state or other legal authority. Responding to a question by Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) member Polson Majaga as to what is the process and qualifications if any, for one to take the job.  Tsiane said there is no hangman in the country.   


“We have in the past advertised the position and it went for a long period of time without any interest from the public,” she said much to the amazement of the committee. The surprise from most of the people emanated from the fact that, there has been a belief that there is someone in Botswana doing the job.Majaga had argued that with the unemployment rate high in the country it was expected that the position would have attracted many applications.


She however could not state when the position was advertised and how long it took without interest from the public. Neither the qualification nor the qualities of the hangman were revealed- but one thing for sure is one need to be merciless.
Tsiane said with the public declining the position, the ministry has since reverted to the department of prison for assistance.


“We asked the prison department to capacitate us on the matter,” she said. As it is, the job is currently taken by the prison officers who have since expressed their desire to receive adequate counseling. “But they are offered counselling prior and after the execution. We have outsourced services from private companies and we believe it is sufficient,” Botswana Prison Service Deputy Commissioner Edna Balang responded to committee member Dithapelo Keorapetse who wanted to know if there is counselling offered to the prison officers carrying out the job.


Tsiane however could not tell the PAC how many people have been hanged since 2008. During President Festus Mogae nine people were executed, from 1966 - 1979, during Sir Seretse Khama's era, 17 people were executed. From 1981 - 1998, during Sir Ketumile Masire's era, 15 people were executed. It is however worth noting that most of the countries including India with over 1 billion population, the authorities still struggle to find a hangman, an indication that the job is shunned worldwide.


The executioner is usually presented with a warrant authorizing 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.


Capital punishment has been a hot potato in the country with some quarters calling for its abolishment while others believes it is a deterrent measure. Still at prisons, it is said 69 infants are lodged there with their incarcerated mothers. Their mothers were convicted while pregnant while others arrived were jailed while their kids were still young. “They are given time to breastfeed and even given extra toiletry,” Balang said. Most infants are from the mothers who are party of the contested ex-refugees, who have now been detained following the lapse in their refugee status.

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