At least a hundred students, who were to be criminally charged for rioting and malicious damage to property during last year’s national public servants strike, have had their charges dropped.
Police say they do not want the students to have criminal records that will ruin their future.
“We have decided to drop all criminal charges against those students who were involved in riots in which school property was damaged during the public servants industrial strike,” Senior Police Commissioner Mathews Letsholo, at Police Head Office in Gaborone, told The Sunday Standard.
He said investigations were conducted on those schools that were involved in the riots countrywide and between 60 and 100 students were to be criminally charged.
He said the investigations also revealed that the students acted on their own and that there was no political motivation.
“We thoroughly studied the dockets and consulted with our stake holders, mainly the Attorney General, together with the Ministry of Education at which, as the police, we informed them about the decision that we took to drop the charges,” he said.
Letsholo said the main reason that led to the police to drop the charges was the fact that they did not want the students to have criminal records though they knew what led them to riots.
“We, therefore, did not in a way want to tarnish their future even though the offenses were committed,” he said.
Although Letsholo was reluctant to divulge more information, he said this must not encourage the forgiven rioting students to riot in the future thinking they will be forgiven.
“That will be very wrong and each case will be treated on its own merit then,” he cautioned.
Letsholo strongly denied the allegation that his organization was influenced to drop the charges.
“To say we were influenced is not true; it was our own discretion to take such a decision to drop all the charges,” he said.
Letsholo revealed that the police had only compensated about two people, in both Ramotswe and Moshupa, who had their property damaged during the riots when the police were dispersing the crowed. He said that he was not in a position to reveal how much money was used in compensation.
The Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, said the ministry was not involved in dropping criminal charges against students that were involved in malicious damage of school property.
“It was their own decision,” she said, adding that it had been agreed that the damaged school property will be repaired by the parents of students who were implicated.
She added that each individual school, together with its Parents Teacher Association, had been assigned to makes sure that the school property had been repaired.
“At this juncture, I cannot tell you how far the process of repairing damaged property has gone because the matter is handled by the individual schools and PTA.