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Public safety must remain government priority

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
Last Saturday, my office got burgled. Somehow, we had let our guard down, and at noon, two men raided it and made away with a few valuables.

It was something of an irony. Fourty percent of my work, is criminal defence. My detractors would readily applaud the incident. I have received applause and criticism for my defence work, in equal measure. My detractors would be happy it happened. When I was doing some murder case, sometime ago, so pent up was public emotion that some wished my children dead just so I could learn not to defend murderers.

According to them, I was impervious to public sentiment and devoid of a soul. In time I came to appreciate the vast divide between public expectations, and my professional expectations.

The law is predicated upon principles wrought of reflection spanning centuries of follies and misfortunes.

On the other hand, the public make no distinction between revenge and justice. It is all understandable, because public sentiment proceeds from raw emotion.  As I stood on the floor of the general working area, in my office, I was a member of the public. I felt angry. In the very space where I have only been a lawyer, I was a complainant. And when the police came, they did their work as they should; professionally. The same people I batter everyday, defending people accused of crimes.

Frankly, no lawyer derives joy from crimes. Nor is there substantial gain from criminal defence. Legal training initiates you to principles that sit deep inside you. It is a process whereof, your constitution is broken, and you are conditioned to hear even the voices of those who hurt you. Sometimes you know a man or woman, is guilty as sin. But the determination of guilt is a legal, not an emotional question. It must follow specific protocols refined by years of reflection, without which guilt might follow you to the grave. We fear the trials of our conscience, more than we fear trials by public opinion. So, as public anger grows, you feel a strong urge to assert the principles of justice even harder.

You are overwhelmed by the feeling that an idea l burnt the midnight oil for, and have soldiered all life for, is under attack. Yet, you know your war is not with society, even if society may be at war with you.

You feel a sense of pity at the harm inflicted upon the innocent, and the reality of their pain.

I have looked at people I have known for a fact have been hurt and have felt a wave of sadness, cover me. With as much admonition, I have heard a voice of admonition summoning me to duty. Reminding me that I was a

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minister in the temple of justice, not in the courts of public opinion. I have hold the conviction, that society would do itself greater harm to sacrifice justice according to law, at the altar of public sentiment.

But Saturday, I was hurt. That’s a fact. I was hurt as much by the loss of property as I was hurt by the invasion of privacy. To many, the crime, with resultant property loss, is not the worst of it all. Many can replace the property. The common denominator among all, is the pervasive sense of invasion; the intrusion into ones privacy. If it is a robbery, it is the feeling of dehumanization and vulnerability. Crime is an assertion upon a human being, that someone else, who should be nothing but an equal, has absolute power over them.  That is a quality of crime that ranks far higher than patrimonial loss. Once, during my days as a prosecutor government security agents burgled my house and stole my laptop, right by my bedside.

I only became aware that I had had uninvited visitors in my room after. So much was taken with the laptop, but the biggest loss was suffered in the right to enjoy a peaceful sleep in the comfort of my house. It was in the inability to rest, because I had always to be thinking about the safety of my children. At some point, the same agents stole six more laptops, on two separate occasions from my Broadhurst office. It was easy to know because at the time, we knew precisely what they were looking for. In fact, we had foreseen the burglary as a possible occurrence. Except, this time, the state was the supreme culprit.

These are the emotions all those violated, must live through. Regrettably, we can only try and make our communities better. Regrettably, in some cases, the burglaries you suffer, are in fact committed by the state itself.

One of the unfulfilled pillars of the 2016 vision, was a safe and secure nation. One of the challenges facing our President and his government, is delivering safety to all Batswana, especially, safety in their homes. Indeed, it is a joint responsibility between the state and the citizen. .

I am not lamenting my loss. I have never been one to request for a pity party. I was back in court on Monday, doing the work I took oath to do. But Saturday’s moment reminded me of the empathy I owe to society, in the discharge of our professional obligations. Let us join hands together



Chief On Friday

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