Match made in hell: Death penalty and murder

Abhorred by the Right-To-Life brigade, the death penalty has been the terrible twin of murder and related crimes in Botswana since before the dawn of democracy.

In short, in Botswana, premeditated murder is punishable by death. Period.

In most instances, murder cases and the sentences thereafter meted out to the convicted, are like a match made in hell (the opposite of heaven). It leaves a sour taste in the minds of those against state-sanctioned retribution and on the other hand satisfaction and closure for the victims and their loved ones. The story of Mariette Bosch, the South African white woman who murdered her best friend in Botswana with a gun she borrowed in her home country so that she could marry her husband is a case in point.

The crime is said to have occurred in what in a South African online publication called “the fringes of an African city (Gaborone)” where “a tight-lipped, highly privileged enclave of white South Africans lived by its own rules”. This was Phakalane of the 1990s and early 2000s, referred to affectionately by those whites as “Little Sandton” attended by maids and garden boys, according to the publication. The whites had shortly “escaped” the new dispensation in South Africa brought about by the liberation of that country from Apartheid rule and its terrible racialist consequences.

Actually, when the body of Bosch’s friend, Maria Wolmarans, was discovered in the hallway of her home in Phakalane, it was her maid who was first suspected of having had a hand in her murder. Her sister-in-law, however, turned out to be the one to hasten her appointment with the hangman. The woman was one of the prosecution witnesses and she convinced even the Court of Appeal (CoA) with her line of evidence. The members of the Appeal Court, which sits twice a year in January and July of each year, included Judge President Timothy Aguda from Nigeria, Sir John Blofeld from England and Lord Weir from Scotland.

Evidence before the courts was that the Bosch family moved to Botswana in 1992 and soon became friends with Maria and her husband, Tiene Wolmarans. The two women are said to have been so close they used to do most things together including joint pursuit of hobbies.

The women even went to the same church, the Dutch Reformed Church in one of Gaborone’s suburbs in the south.  It is said within months of Mariette Bosch’s husband getting killed in a car crash in South Africa, she (Mariette) had begun an affair with Tienie.

At the same time, the marriage of Tiene and Maria is said to have become strained and when Tiene delayed in divorcing his wife, Mariette is said to have grown impatient and went to borrow a pistol from a friend in South Africa, which she used to murder Maria.

The murder was so secretive the police had to piece evidence together including that of Mariette’s sister-in-law, Judith Bosch. The police also managed to establish that the gun and the cartridges matched. In no time, Mariette and Tiene are said to have decided to marry. According to the South African online publication, even after her conviction, Bosch imagined she would walk free.  “I believe that God will deliver me from this nightmare,” she said. “I have been framed. People have turned against me, but God will not.”

Mariette was hanged in 2001 amid international condemnation and she became the fourth woman to be hanged since September 1966.

Clement Gofhamodimo must have thought he had done a clean job in the early 1980s when he killed a white man and robbed him of his vehicle and travellers’ cheques in an area around Maun. He is said to have befriended the Swiss national who was said to have been traveling to Namibia (then still known as South West Africa).

He was later seen in Maun fueling the vehicle at filling stations and using the man’s travellers’ cheques to settle the bills. The Swiss’s body was never discovered, but investigators managed to piece together information that he could have killed him and used the information to convince the judiciary to charge and convict Gofhamodimo with murder.

He was hanged October 27, 1984.

Another murder case that had the nation agog was that involving Tekoetsile Ticco Tsiane, who was said to have murdered a farmer Kweneng area and robbed him of his belongings and money. Tsiane was with three others, Obusitswe Tshabang, David Bogatsu and David Kelaletswe who were hanged with him on August 26, 1995.

Tsiane is said to have threatened the other three never to reveal who pulled the trigger, or else. The trio’s appeal was unsuccessful when they prayed the Appeal’s Court to overturn their murder conviction on the grounds that it was impossible for four people to pull the one trigger at the same time.

The Human Rights have recommended that Botswana explore the possibility of a moratorium on the death penalty and to take concrete steps toward abolition of the death penalty. The Council also recommended ratification of the second optional protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The government always responded by saying it was the will of the people that anyone who commits murder, especially willfully and intentionally, shall also be made to suffer the same fate.

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