Home » News » Weekend Life » The Law and the People

The Law and the People

Publishing Date : 12 March, 2019

Author :

MAXWELL MOTHAPELARURI MOATHUDI

While we are grappling with illegal gunmen who gate-crush congresses, rapists, murderers, the corruption prone, tax evaders and so on and so forth, let us pause and look at some aspects of the Law as it pertains to our beloved country and its humble, see no evil, hear no evil, talk no evil, law abiding people.



Is it working for us? In other words, does it serve the purpose for which it is intended? Does it serve to regulate behaviour? Maybe, maybe not. It really depends on how or from where one looks at it. For me .. well … here and there, but on the whole I think our Law is not that effective nor efficient. Or maybe it is because of how it is crafted, or interpreted or implemented, or just how I feel about it; I have no clue. I am saying this because I think we are using the Law to solve problems.


Is it intended that way? I really do not know, but that will not prevent me from representing my lay-man’s views in terms of what I think are deficiencies of some of our laws. Oops! Did I just write “deficiencies”? Mmm…h! I do not think I qualify for that. I wanted to, maybe write, irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant, unpredictable and most times un-implementable.


Is this a problem, or I am just making a mountain out of a mole hill? Well, I think it is and probably the reason we are not solving the problems we intend to solve is because we have not, as yet, recognised their existence, or we have, and just choose to ignore them. I just cannot comprehend why we always seem to tighten the screws every time the citizenry seems to be getting out of the way.


Are stiffer laws and punishments a solution to the problems besieging our lovely country? Have we ever considered that maybe it is the circumstances that the citizens of this country find themselves in, and unintentionally and innocently break the law, to make ends meet? Have we? I doubt! What then, is the use of tightening the screws if the circumstances remain the same? An exercise in futility? I guess so. We seem to be intent on the “HOW” aspect, as opposed to the “WHY” aspect.


We look at some variables, that suit us of course, not the equation. During a workshop, in Botswana sometime in February, 2016 or there about, aimed at evaluating where Botswana currently is regarding the death penalty and if enough is being done to minimise fatal errors, Justice Lovemore Chikopa of the Malawi Supreme Court, had this to say; “Talking too much about punishment and not enough focus on reducing people’s chances to offend and/or re-offend does not serve any good”. This says it all, ladies and gentlemen, and he was talking to us; seems we did not understand though.


I think we need to comprehensively concentrate on “why” people break the law, as opposed to “how” we can punish them for breaking the law. It is that simple! Even before the birth of Jesus Christ, Plato (427 to 347 B.C), posited that “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around them”. It amazes me that, in the 21st century, we still are not able to match the thinking abilities of people like Plato.


Therein lies the problem; our thinking abilities. We need to recognise the existence of a problem (detect the problem (this we do)), determine the cause of the problem by informed diagnostic methods (this we do not do) before we can even think of effecting a solution to the problem (this we do, and like doing). This I think is yet another problem. We have a propensity to effect solutions, by way of tightening our laws, without thoroughly diagnosing the cause of the problem. We have this irritating and ineffective “replace the fuse – all size fits all” mentality.


Our people will continue to innocently break the law, due to circumstances beyond their control and we will continue to tighten the screws. Those with the wherewithal to rope in legal representation – and they are virtually non-existent in this lot – will claim extenuating circumstances, and probably evade the slammer. Where does this lead us; to overcrowded court-houses and prisons, family disintegration and all sorts of nasty repercussions associated with breaking the Law. The funds that have to be used to build roads, schools, hospitals, clinics and a whole list of valuable and essential infrastructure is used to satisfy our insatiable appetite for solving problems with legislation, and locking our people up.


Besides this insatiable appetite for putting our people behind bars, we lack the rationale to distinguish between laws that punish the citizens and those that regulate and protect the citizens. Mature democracies go all out to promulgate laws that effectively and efficiently protect and regulate their citizens. Why can we not? We cannot because we do not take our people seriously. Otherwise why promulgate laws such as “shoot to kill”.


Kill who? Our very own people who vote for us. Our very own people who are forced by circumstances to break the law, knowingly or otherwise, they still do not have a choice; they just need to survive. Survive as their ancestors survived by killing, not poaching, the animals they live with and amongst, and they do this discriminately because they appreciate that the animals need to procreate so that they maintain their (the people’s) survival.


Here is a truly strange one, that sure flies in the face of logic; we encourage people to drink lots of water and then prevent them, by law, from passing the excess off, fully knowing that we have not provided facilities for getting rid of the excess. How immature! Everyone knows it is bad, and wrong, to pass off excess water anywhere one wishes to, but, in the absence of the requisite infrastructure, what does one do when nature calls? And I mean really calls? You see, it is a conundrum, and it requires mature reasoning and respect for the sanctity of life.


If we continue passing law after law in pursuit of the “HOW” to punish those who break the law, we will certainly end up with a situation where the citizenry does not respect the law. We will certainly end up with a situation where even the law enforcement cadre do not know which or what law to use against the people.


This might effectively bring about law breaking and corruption amongst the enforcers, who represent the Government, and, Justice Louis D Brandeis, US Supreme Court Justice this to say about this kind of situation; “Our Government is the potent, the omnipotent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches people by example…if the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become law unto himself”.


If you have read an article carried in the Sunday Standard of March 3 – 9, 2019, titled “Police law-breaking almost cost two men their lives”, you will catch my drift. Yet again, we might end up with people or organisations creating their own laws, simply because there are so many laws which cause confusion among the people and the law enforcement officers themselves. Explain this; why is it that a certified copy of a National identity card (Omang) has to expire, and in three to six months for that matter, before the original card expires?


If this is a law, then, at best, it is stupid! Will this not encourage corruption? Come on, let us be serious! A poor old man hitch hikes all the way from Moletemane to Mmadinare to drop off land application forms and is told that his certified copy of “Omang” has expired! He has the original card in his pocket but it has not expired. The poor fellow is confused but is afraid to confront the not so friendly gate-keeper (sometimes application forms are handled by gate-keepers), so off he hungrily hitch hikes to Selebi-Phikwe Omang offices to be informed that his card has still got three or so more years before expiry. Confusion! Confusion! Confusion! I do not want to explain how this will lead to corruption; it’s all there for you to figure it out dear esteemed reader.


Very soon we might find ourselves not giving rides to our family members because someone might misinterpret the law as outlawing hitch-hiking. What is outlawed is getting paid for giving someone a ride, not giving the ride itself. Same as carrying “Omang”. There is no law prescribing the carrying of “Omang”. There is serious need to educate law enforcement officers, and the public at large, so that there is harmony amongst us.


We make laws and leave it to the people to figure them out. If one is unlucky not to know about the existence of some law, and they break the said law; you know what happens? “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”. If this is the law, then it is cowardly. Not everyone can read. So putting the responsibility to know and interpret the law on people who cannot read, let alone access where the law is published, is downright cruel, and, at best, rude.


While we are busy making laws that punish our people, we very conveniently ignore cries from the people to pass other laws which will protect the people and the people’s interests. Why? The answer is simple! We ignore these cries, from our VOTERS, so that we may keep the voters in the dark and enjoy the fruits alone. How else does one start to explain the reason behind not promulgating a law on “Declaration of Assets and Liabilities”?


Well, I will start to explain by stating “so that the people may not know what we brought with us (assets or liabilities) when we acquired power (and we mostly bring liabilities) and therefore cannot prove we enriched ourselves whilst in power”. And then again, this law, as it has been argued in some quarters, will not be of “significant assistance unless accompanied by legislation on the right to information (Freedom of Information Act) and an appropriate Media Practitioners’ Act”.


Simple! How long have Media practitioners been harping to have the Legal Practitioners’ Act (LPA) repealed, or at the least reviewed? Ten or so years? That is a long time, and we have decided to turn a deaf ear to their cries. This is misplaced reasoning on our part. Should the law not address issues of equality, fairness and justice? What then happens to the equality, fairness and justice, which the law has to concern itself with? We are imperilled by statements such as, “why fix it if it not broken”.


That is an American way of thinking and I struggle to figure out “why America? when we are still a developing country, without laws that genuinely protect the interests of the ordinary masses”. We are custodians of this information, on behalf of the people, why then do we deny them that which we hold on their behalf. Baffling, is it not?


You see, we are all a people, governed by a people and I want to believe, for us (the people). So I just do not understand why a people governed by a people for the people, should want to disagree on what the people feel is right for them. Because, whatever is right for the people, has to be right for the law maker, unless the law maker does not live the life of the ordinary people.


For you, esteemed reader, to catch my drift, you have to belong with the masses. You have to live with the ordinary people, and experience their hardships brought about by overly retrogressive legislation. I live amongst a people who do not understand the law, and yet are supposed to respect it and engage with it. I live amongst a people who do not know that it is an offence to kill another human being. To them, their law is the law of the jungle – “eat or be eaten”.


So, to subject these people to the rigors of the modern law and not educate them on it is an injustice. I want to believe the majority of the people who inhabit prisons know absolutely nothing about the law, or if they do, they think it is for those who passed the laws. “Melao yeo ke ya bone” is the usual rhetoric amongst these people. If you do not understand me, come with me to the cattle-post, spend the weekend with them, and you will understand.


“From where I stand, you are no longer the break of day. You are no longer the silver light that shines in the evening. I can hardly feel my heart even though you hold me in your arms, and I hope you stay far from where I stand. Look at me … tell me what you see. Do you understand what your laws have done to me? You no longer sweep my heart away. You no longer hold me close beside you and help me find my way. It is no longer clear if you are the only for me. At least if you could see that it is written in my eyes how much I love you, my beloved Botswana”.


Much as he was not focussing on what this article is about, Iqbal Ibrahim (Understanding Islam) mirrors my thoughts in the Weekend Post of 02 – 08, March, 2019, when he writes; “We go through our daily lives with tests and challenges – sometimes we get so overwhelmed by them that we ask “why me”? When these things happen, our patience is tested and some people go into depression, lose faith and hope and even go as far as getting into a state of limbo because we lose rationality.


When the future looks bleak, we must remember the saying; “every cloud has a silver lining”. The cloud is the deteriorating state of affairs in our country and the silver lining is HE MEK Masisi. Even as they lambast and harangue you, I have HOPE! Do not lose sight of where you want to take our country. I want to sing Dobbie Gray’s song the way he sang it, once again, not in the bastardised fashion as in the previous paragraph, and I have faith you will finally make that possible; AGAIN.


May God bless this, the Republic of Botswana. PULA!!!
Maxwell Mothapelaruri Moathudi writes from Selebi-Phikwe

Cartoon

Polls

Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?

banner_14.jpg
banner_12.jpg

POPULER BRANDS