Women are not properties-Judge warns murderers

Justice Matlhogonolo Phuthego
With the number of Gender Based violence (GBV) offences especially rapes and murders of women and the girl child in Botswana spiraling out of control, the country’s courts have and continue to be the last bastion of hope for victims. Mmegi Staffer LEBOGANG MOSIKARE recently observed this long held legal practice when a man was sentenced to 18-years-in-jail for callously murdering his girlfriend

FRANCISTOWN: The sentencing of Christopher Tirelo to jail for murdering Malebogo Masilo in 2017 at Mothabaneng village near Bobonong village happened in the wake of a scathing attack by various civil society organisations (CVOs) against the majority Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators after a motion by an opposition MP to set up a Presidential Commission of Enquiry to investigate issues of GBV in Botswana did not succeed in Parliament.

While the wording of Justice Matlhogonolo Phuthego in the Tirelo case differs from what the CVOs say about GBV, their messages are clear and similar-GBV strips off the dignity of women and children, and in some dire instances, their Constitutional right to enjoy their lives are abruptly ended. The 2020 ranking by the World Population Review places Botswana on the second spot after South Africa out of the top 10 countries with the highest rates of rape in the world.

Therefore, it was not surprising for Justice Phuthego to say this when passing Tirelo’s sentence: “The accused behaved as if the deceased was his personal property and that he had a right to do as he pleased with her. Gone are the days when women were treated as properties of their male counterparts.”

Phuthego’s stark warning continued: “The reports of femicide in Botswana are rampant and therefore, it is the duty of the courts to impose sentences that fit the nature of offences committed. In cases like this one, the courts should protect the vital needs of members of society particularly women and children who continue to bear the brunt of GBV…”

Justice Phuthego also said that the defence counsel pleaded with the court to take into account that Tirelo was a first offender who had spent two years, five months and some days in jail before he was sentenced.

“The defence counsel also prayed with the court to take into account the interests of the accused, society and justice-that the accused should be incarcerated but at the same time given the opportunity to be rehabilitated. The defence also prayed with the court to take into account that the accused pleaded guilty to the offence, which is a sign of remorse on his part,” said Justice Phuthego.

He added: “ The defence also stated that by the time the accused committed the offence, he was drinking alcohol but was now a

teetotaler who survives by digging wells to take care of his two minor children.”

The defence, Phuthego went on, pleaded with the court to be lenient with the accused because passing a long jail term against him will jeopardise the future of his children and also consider that he was aged 20 when he committed the offence…

“In my view, punishment should fit the crime committed even if sentencing a young offender to jail for a long time. Justice demands that courts should take into account mitigatory and aggravating factors before passing sentence. It appears from the accused’s statement that the deceased told him that she could not go and sleep with him at his place because she did not inform her parents about sleeping out at Motlhabaneng since she had just arrived from Talana Farms. This enraged the accused who ended up stabbing the deceased with a knife on the chest. The post-mortem report shows that the knife reached the deceased’s heart,” said Phuthego. “It is my considered view”, Phuthego added, “that the murder was somewhat premeditated because in his statement, Tirelo said that he left alone to his place of residence to sleep but when he arrived at his place, he could not sleep.”

“The accused said that he sat on his bed and started to think that he could not sleep alone. He said that he had a knife that he used to cut his nails with but decided not to sleep and left his place while still carrying his knife. He said that he was angry but had no intention of stabbing the deceased. The accused said that when he reached the deceased’s place of residence, he asked her what her problem was but she told him to leave her alone because she wanted to sleep.

The accused said that since he was angry, he took his knife and stabbed the deceased,” Phuthego narrated. In conclusion, Phuthego said: “Taking into account the mitigatory and aggravating factors, I sentence the accused to 18 years in jail. The cumulative time that the accused spent in custody before he was sentenced should be deducted from his sentence… The accused is further advised of his right to appeal both his conviction or sentence at the Court of Appeal in six weeks starting from today.”




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