A polarised debate over the recent floggings in Kgatleng ensued in Parliament yesterday after Lobatse legislator, Nehemiah Modubule, branded the floggings illegal when budget allocations for the Department of Administration of Justice came before the House.
But Botswana's sole independent lawmaker later found himself at odds with the Office of the President when the Minister of Justice defended the controversial phenomenon in Kgatleng as falling within the ambit of the constitution. So did the two MPs from Kgatleng, Isaac Mabiletsa of Kgatleng West (BNF) and Gilbert Mangole of Kgatleng East (BDP), who became unlikely bedfellows over the floggings. However, Modubule maintained that the law of the land should be followed equally by all and that no individual or tribe should place themselves above it.
He said the floggings made him "uncomfortable," especially since the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security Ramadeluka Seretse had been silent on the matter. The government should make its position clear on the matter if it should avoid being accused of complicity, he added. Taking a divergent view, the MP for Francistown West Tshelang Masisi said floggings were "the traditional and shortest way" of bringing order to "unruly characters" and that the Kgatleng example was worthy of being emulated.
Masisi was supported by the two MPs from Kgatleng, Mabiletsa and Mngole, who overcame their political differences and defended the floggings as legal because they were administered after investigations, they said.
Bakgatla had collectively agreed that unruly characters should be flogged, hence there was now law and order in the district, Mangole said.
Immigrants currently staying in Kgatleng should 'assimilate' and learn to follow the traditions of Bakgatla, he added.
For his part, Mabiletsa said the floggings could save young people from being sent to jail where there was the danger of mixing with hardened criminals. He once had a cellphone stolen but had refused to report the matter to the police after learning that one of the thieves was a student at Molefi Secondary School, he said. The boys were subsequently flogged at the Kgotla: "I was told recently that the child has passed his Cambridge with flying colours," said Mabiletsa. Also in agreement was the MP for Tati East, Guma Moyo, who said the government should watch out for people who may use culture for ulterior motives. On another matter, Moyo called on the government to protect judicial officers, saying a magistrate had recently received death threats after sentencing former Bakwena Chief and Head of the Customay Court of Appeal, Kgosikwena Sebele, to four years imprisonment for stocktheft.
Whereupon the Leader of Opposition, Olebile Gaborone, interjected to say the House should not discuss issues that were already before the courts. But Moyo maintained his position, saying it was in the public domain that a magistrate was threatened, hence the need for judicial officers to be provided with security.
In response, the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security Ramadeluka Seretse said the Kgatleng floggings were within the ambit of the constitution. He said those who felt wronged by the floggings may report to relevant authorities for appropriate action to be taken.
This position makes Kgosi Kgafela II of Bakgatla and President Ian Khama unlikely bedfellows given their running gauntlet over representation in Ntlo Ya Marena.
On other issues raised, Seretse said the government was working on availing legal aid to people who cannot access justice because of high charges. He also said the government could not debar expatriate lawyers from practising in Botswana because of the serious shortage of attorneys.