Indeed it would have been slightly unfair to the officers for while it has always been clear that they have been in the wrong, it cannot be denied that what they did they did in the line of duty and possibly made bad calls. Suggestions that they were given specific orders to kill cannot be ignored either though there is little to no evidence to this effect.
The question then would be why so much noise over the conditional presidential pardon. Well the answer to that is fairly easy. Not a lot of people thought it could happen this early just a year into their sentence. Government has not given reasons (at least at the time I’m writing this). The normally communicative Government spin doctor Dr. Jeff Ramsay has come across as clueless as anybody. A terse email to media houses suggests some confusion if not total ignorance of the pardon on his part. You see, it is not really customary for the President to give reason for pardoning people, we are told that he can do this at his discretion meaning reasons do not need to be given. The other reality is that it is also not customary for this government to pardon convicted criminals -check pleas for presidential clemency on capital punishment if in doubt. So the outcry could be more because of absence of reasons which are not really likely to be given as well as the timing of the pardon. I also take issue with the whole thing.
The pardon while legal will only serve to fuel speculation that the President was somehow involved; an allegation that has never been put to test mind you. The decision to give the pardon is a public relations nightmare. There might be good reasons for the pardons. I can advance a few but later on that. The point here is that an impression has been created by Office of the President that certain people are above the law. A perception is being perpetuated by the leadership that there is no separation of powers in Botswana that the judiciary in Botswana is generally not independent of the executive. Even worse could be the impression created that the President does not respect the rule of law. In the face of this, reason good or bad is inconsequential, it is the image of the leadership that suffers and so it should. The Kalafatis issue while very much a local issue that was somehow blown up into a national issue is indicative of the arrogant manner with which this country is run. Keeping the officers in jail for at least a quarter of their sentences would have made for a case for their pardon. But in typical behaviour of this government, simply because something is legal it will be done disregarding the destruction of public confidence in critical institutions that make this country. Is OP aware that the message they could be sending could be that security officers are above the law?
It would be unfair of me not to consider the other side of the argument; that the imprisonment of security officers who “made a bad call” could have a demoralizing effect on other members of security agencies. Do we want security agents who will be hesitant about making decisions that though could result in the death of a suspect could well have been done with protecting the public in mind? Do we want security agents who do not feel appreciated by the very society they have sworn to protect? The answer to these questions is an obvious no. Their morale is crucial to their protection and indeed if it could be established (and it has not been to the best of our knowledge) that the imprisonment was a threat to their morale then who can argue with the decision to release them especially on the basis of what we know so far?
It must be appreciated, however, that as important as the morale of security services is, public confidence in them is just as important if not more important. As such, it is critical that the high regard that our security services is held in be destroyed either by a regime that seeks favour with security personnel or by a few bad apples in the services who failed to follow the rules of the game. The reality is this decision has catalyzed the erosion of public confidence in the commitment of this government to justice and security. The cliché goes that justice must not just be done but it must seen to be done in the same manner. Security goes beyond just the hardware and the number of personnel that we have, it goes to us the members of public having full confidence that we are protected from the people mandated to protect us. In the event that we start viewing them as trigger happy cowboys who will shoot us wily nilly because they will get the backing of OP gives us no reason to respect them or the government, they are effectively enemies of the state. The decision has in addition to the way the Ramadeluka Seretse case was held, the BDC scandal is being held and the way the Kenneth Matambo scandal was held as well as a plethora of other gaffes(if indeed they are) by this government continue to erode public confidence in some of the pillars that hold this country together.