With international entities again mounting pressure over the country’s death penalty, Mmegi surveys this week indicate that rather than turning the other cheek, Batswana are still very much in favour of “an eye for an eye”. Staff Writer, MBONGENI MGUNI reports
The execution of Joseph Tselayarona over the weekend inevitably set off fresh debate around whether the death penalty is still relevant in modern Botswana. International entities such as the European Union (EU), Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights say Botswana is swimming against the tide by continuing to enforce the death penalty.
On Monday, reacting to Tselayarona’s execution, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) released a hard-hitting condemnation calling Botswana’s laws “cruel and regressive”.
“FIDH strongly condemns this execution which has been carried out secretly as all executions are in Botswana, in violation with the basic standards of human rights and contrary to the abolitionist trend in Africa.
“This unexpected execution comes at a time when almost 80% of African countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
“Botswana is the only southern African nation that has not abolished the death penalty and that keeps executing.”
In its international engagements where the matter has been brought up, government’s official position has been calm, unemotional steadfastness, wrapped in the cultural politeness espoused by Botho. Every five years, government, through the Home Affairs minister, is summoned to a United Nations (UN) panel of countries to account for its human rights record. The death penalty has consistently come up and government has consistently stood its ground.
The only compromise in the three reviews since 2008, has been government agreeing to hold a public dialogue on whether to retain or abolish the death penalty.
Even then, government has quietly resisted.
“The government has not been able to hold public debates in regard to the question on the death penalty since the last review cycle,” Edwin Batshu told the Geneva review in January this year.
Part of the country’s resolve comes from the fact that while FIDH and others say African states are moving away from the death penalty, reports from the UN panels show that no African state has ever challenged or questioned Botswana on the death penalty. The protests have come from the EU states, Australia, South America while the United States, with 31 of its states still executing prisoners, has chosen to remain silent.
However, the major reason driving Botswana’s resolve is the fact that the death penalty has never been a major issue in Parliament, where any review of the sentence would have to take place. Legislators know their constituents are overwhelmingly in support of the death penalty, a fact reinforced in Mmegi’s surveys conducted this week.
Number of voters: 10,500 (as at 3pm, February 22, 2018)
Those in favour of the death penalty: 9,400
Those against the death penalty: 1,100
Number of voters: 192
Those in favour of the death penalty: 165
Those against the death penalty: 27
Batswana are quite clear on where they stand:
Ona Mogale: I get that one of the bases of the demand for abolishing the death penalty is apparently because ‘it does not deter would-be murderers’. Well, it was never meant to deter them. It is punishment to be meted out for a crime committed. Who is EU or UN to tell us how to punish criminals in our own land! Are they undermining our sovereignty?
Rocky Gofamodimo: We don’t just hang perpetrators willy-nilly. Everything is taken into consideration. This
Tlamelo Motalaote: We all know the repercussions of killing mo Botswana. So really if you don’t want to be hanged, do not kill anyone. Why should criminals be shown mercy when they didn’t show it to their victims? Why do criminals have more rights than victims?
Lepuffin Modise: What I don’t like about the death penalty;
* It is as if it’s reserved for poor people; who cannot afford advocates and the fan fare.
* Our judges are dull. If those judges cannot see how flagging cars instead of licences is unjust and unfair, why should they be allowed to sentence people to death.
* Who is the hangwoman: (not fair a question); but how much is she paid, what sort of counselling is she receiving ; support. Everything is shrouded in secrecy.
*The government refuses when we want to visit the place where they hang people....
Therefore we should do away with death penalty; we should just keep murderers in jail forever.
Brandon Max Tshabatau: May the international community mind their own business and let Botswana carry out death punishment for murderers who take away lives of innocent victims. Capital punishment is meant to give closure to families, friends and relatives of the victim, even if the deceased doesn’t come back. I support death penalty!
Bro Mambaleo Off Tee: Botswana pretends to be a Christian country while we can’t forgive at national level. Let Llove lead my beloved country.
Jabu Jabu: Capital punishment shouldn’t be stopped. I know more than 10 people in my community who committed murder more than once. If they had been hanged or executed they couldn’t have committed murder again.
King Marley: Death Penalty doesn’t serve any justice. Only the less privileged shall face the wrath of the hangman while those with money shall continue walking free even without trial. Life is very important. No one should be allowed to take it. Not even the hangman...
Mbiganyi Mbix Samson: The criminal justice system is also fallible although we don’t want to admit it. We know that the courts make efforts to appear correct in applying the death penalty but in the event an error is found, the person executed will not be brought back. Leave retribution to God. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation.
Diego Potso: The death penalty should stay. We can’t feed and take care of a killer with taxpayer’s money...and we can’t set them free either. Who knows what they will do again. Capital punishment is the answer.
@Rre_Mpaphi: Deterrent? For who. I find the idea of the death penalty more obsolete than anything that ever existed. It only works to soothe the bloodthirst and a culture of vengeance in the land.
@MullerEmpo: The UN should talk to the US first. Why us when the US is still sending people to the chair?
@mdisele: Your government fears foreign bodies than its people. There are more pressing issues than death sentence.
@viktorbarceqie: Botswana is a sovereign country. No nation or body can dictate to Batswana how to run their country.