Three death row inmates are next month expected to make a last attempt to dodge a date with the hangman when the Court of Appeal sits. The three are Benson Keganne, Brandon Sampson and South African Michael Molefe.
Brandon Samson and Michael Molefe were condemned to the gallows for the murder of two Zimbabwean nationals in Mogoditshane in 2001. They are said to have shot and stabbed their victims to death.
The third death row inmate, Benson Keganne, was convicted of killing Phitshane Molopo businesswoman Gloria Mahowe. At the time, he was acting together with two other South Africans who have since been spared the capital sentence and are presently serving lengthy prison terms.
In his ruling, High Court Judge David Newman found that the two played a minor role in committing the crime and they were also young at the time.
Brandon Sampson and Michael Molefe’s appeal comes four years after they were sentenced to death by current Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo. It took a total of four years for their appeal to be heard. Explaining the delay, Deputy Registrar and Master of Lobatse High Court, Michael Motlhabi, said the two’s case record was long and took a long time to prepare.
Benson Keganne’s case is likely to draw controversy as it is expected to strain relations between Botswana and South Africa. President Ian Khama is expected to sanction his execution if the Court of Appeal dismisses his appeal, despite the fact that former President Festus Mogae made an undertaking to the South African government that Keganne will not be executed if found guilty. This was at a time when Botswana was looking for Keganne and his co-accused to be extradited to Botswana to stand trial.
The Botswana government’s about turn is believed to have led to the current diplomatic tiff with South Africa, especially on the issue of extradition of suspected murderers from South Africa to Botswana.
Last year, the South African government released two Batswana citizens who were wanted for murder, after Botswana authorities refused to give guarantees that they would not be executed if convicted.
In an apparent attempt to iron out this problem, the two countries recently conducted a seminar to discuss the issue. It is, however, unclear if the seminar has borne any fruit.
The Court of Appeal will also hear several criminal and civil appeals, including those of murder, attempted murder, rape, stock theft, and burglary.