MISA Botswana reacts to pardoning of Kalafatis killers
by MHD Maphanyane
The Media Institute of Southern Africa-MISA Botswana Chapter has learnt with surprise of the ‘conditional pardon’ of the convicted killers of one John Kalafatis by the president. This is a prerogative placed on the Head of State under section 53 of our Constitution and under normal circumstances, we should be celebrating such exercise of reprieve on our fellow citizens. However, it would seem that, the decision has been condemned by commentators from various sectors considering the circumstances of the Kalafatis’ killing and the manner it was carried out.
As a media advocacy group, we note that a number of media outlets have tried unsuccessfully to seek explanations or details on this unprecedented action by the Office of the President directed to a particular group of prisoners. Government Spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay was quoted extensively in the media as saying he could not divulge any more information beyond that Kalafatis killers were granted conditional pardon but to our surprise he has since issued another statement accusing the media of not seeking clarification on the matter. Is this not a clear case of shooting the messenger while disregarding the main issue – POOR INFORMATION FLOW.
We believe strongly that transparency and accountability are at the core of every democratic dispensation. It is when things are done in a transparent and open manner, that doubts and suspicions, can be eliminated and confidence on the actions of the leaders restored. This is one reason why we believe that a law on access to information is so important in a democratic society such as ours.
The chapter is currently the Secretariat to a task force propagating for the enactment of a freedom of information legislation to guide government and other bodies on the flow of information. We believe the law would have assisted in determining whether the disclosure of the information on the release of the convicts would in any way endanger the country’s national security or whether such a release would be in public interest. Under the current situation where there is no legislation and no explanation is forthcoming, speculations will be rife and disgruntlement will be the order of the day.
In Botswana murder is a serious crime which needs to be taken seriously by all including those operating in security services of the country, as shown by the number of those sent to hang until they died. The family of the deceased and the nation deserves to know the reasons for the pardon, so as to hold those responsible accountable and to register their views on the action- is that not democracy? A recent report by IDASA makes an indictment on Botswana democracy, and accuses our country of being “a minimalist democracy” where there is little participation from the citizenry on the running of their country. This observation could not have been more precise and apt and it is our humble submission that, this situation is attributable to poor information flow.
As a nation, we are concerned that this particular Presidential pardon could be misconstrued by those in the security services that they are above the law and can do as they like and get away with it. We are well alive to the fact that the constitution empowers the President to pardon any convict but we believe that in a participatory democracy such powers have to be seen to be in the interest of the public. It is only when they are armed with the relevant information that Batswana can make sense out of such decisions and make meaningful contribution to the national discourse. As we always say, secrecy is corrosive and it will continue to sore seeds of division and discontent amongst us as a nation.
MHD Maphanyane , MISA Botswana Chairperson