Notwithstanding that in Botswana like anywhere else, politicians are generally held in high esteem in the society, hell breaks loose when the honourable men and women of our society are caught on the wrong side of the law. Mmegi Staffer RYDER GABATHUSE writes that it’s not unprecedented that when a politician is facing criminal allegations, it raises so much hullaballoo that some want the accused to resign instantly.
FRANCISTOWN: The social media just like news media have lately been abuzz with calls for the Nata/Gweta maverick legislator Paulson Majaga to step down from his parliamentary seat. The calls were generally premised upon the reality that the MP is facing allegations of defilement of girls under 18 years of age.
Majaga’s matter freshly appeared before a rural-based Nata Magistrate’s Court after he handed himself to the Kutlwano police station in Francistown, where he was briefly detained.
The matter is alleged to have been committed about 160 kilometres from Francistown, in the periphery of Sowa Township.
The arrest and court appearance of the lawmaker Majaga have ignited a lot of brouhaha from the civil society and political organisations alike. He is however, still accused of a matter in which he is alleged to have slept with and impregnated a minor, in this case a 16-year-old rural girl from Malelejwe cattlepost, just in the outskirts of the salt and soda ash mining town of Sowa Town.
Majaga is considered to be innocent until proven otherwise though.
UNICEF, Botswana recently expressed concern over what it described as “alarming numbers of children who have been raped since the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown in Botswana.”
The organisation condemned in the strongest terms any form of abuse and exploitation of children during the lockdown.
The Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) issued a press statement recently condemning Majaga, “for being cruel if it’s really true that he has slept and impregnated a minor.”
“The BCPYL has been noticeably quiet since the disturbing revelation of yet another minor sexually assaulted and impregnated by not only an elder but a leader at national level. Our silence was borne from our veneration of the dictum, ‘innocent until proven guilty’.”
The BCPYL was particularly worried that some similar incidents have gone unreported in Nata raising fears that cases of sexual assaults on minors could be prevalent in the area.
A more strongly worded statement was issued by the BCP Women’s League (BCPWL), which unequivocally called for the legislator to step down from his position in view of the scandalous allegations against him.
“As the BCP Women’s League we are deeply concerned by these allegations,” reads a statement penned by the BCPWL secretary general, Itumeleng Gabatshabe.
The statement further pointed out: “We call on Parliament to enact stringent statutes that will deter perpetrators from committing such unspeakable offences”.
The ruling BDP has also issued a statement on the Majaga matter and expressed regret at reports of sexual defilement of a minor in Nata, which allegedly involved a community leader.
The party also called on law enforcement authorities to treat all reports with deserved expediency while observing the delicate
It’s also very interesting how the Majaga case received so much attention with the Botswana Police Service when there was another case of defilement recorded in Tutume village when the Majaga’s case was reported. No mention was made of this other case.
Police internal communication, the northern division situation report recently reflected that an elderly man only identified as Lee had sexually abused a 15-year-old beginning of this month. The relationship allegedly started off last year when the girl was only 14 years.
The outrage of civil society groups, political organisations and others is understandable. In 2005, Mmegi newspaper found itself taking sides in quiet a similar matter.
In 2005 on the verge of a by-election at the then Gaborone West North, the then Mmegi editor, Mesh Moeti took a bold step and endorsed the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) parliamentary candidate, Otsweletse Moupo against the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) opposite number Robert Masitara. The passing on of the former MP, Paul Rantao, necessitated the by-election.
Masitara was then facing rape charges and he was yet to be pronounced guilty or not However, Masitara was ultimately discharged and acquitted of a rape charge amid allegations that one of the crucial exhibits was ‘tempered’ with.
The Mmegi decision attracted so much condemnation from some quarters to the extent that the aggrieved BDP secretariat took the independent publication to the Media Complaints Committee. The BDP was not happy about the newspaper’s endorsement of the BNF candidate and leader, Moupo for the Gaborone West-North constituency by-election.
The newspaper had led with a commentary entitled ‘Vote Moupo’. The commentary called on the voters to reject BDP candidate Robert Masitara, “to punish the party for fielding a man who is facing rape charges.”
Former BDP executive secretary, Dr Comma Serema had condemned the Mmegi commentary that, “it was in bad taste and exhibited unprofessional, biased and irresponsible reporting against his party“.
University of Botswana (UB) senior lecturer in politics, Dr. Kebapetse Lotshwao concurs that the Majaga matter caused uproar because the suspect is an MP.
“As an MP, the society expects the suspect to uphold the laws of the republic, not violate them. The uproar was also partly caused by the society’s gradual disappointment with impunity enjoyed by elites in the country,” analysed Lotshwao.
The UB academic stressed that; ”people correctly feel he will be let off the hook because of his position, like many other elites and well connected people implicated in various forms of bad governance, including corruption that has come to characterise Botswana in recent years”.