Thursday, September 24, 2020

Death penalty sours relations between Botswana and South Africa

Fly Mokwadi on 24 of March became the 42nd person to be executed in Botswana since the country attained independence in 1966.

Mokwadi was found guilty of having murdered his child.

His execution comes amidst condemnations by civil society groups in the country who say that the government should abolish the practice, which has been widely condemned in other countries as being both abhorrent and not a deterrent.
Leading this campaign in Botswana has been the Botswana Human Rights organisation (Ditshwanelo).

The organisation has been campaigning against the death penalty for years now, saying that the government should move with the times and abolish the practice and replace it with life sentences as is the practice in most democratic countries around the world.
The government’s stand has always been that Batswana in general are pro death sentence and that is why it is still being practiced.

Currently, there are five other death row inmates in the country. Amongst them a South African citizen, Michael Molefe, who was sentenced to death, along with a Motswana, Branson Simpson, for the murder of two Zimbabweans.

Molefe and Sampson have been on death row for close to ten years and recently the Deputy Master and Registrar of the Lobatse High Court, Michael Motlhabi, when asked why their appeal in the Court of Appeal had not yet been heard after such a long time said that it was because the material, which needs to be placed before the Court of Appeal for their case to be heard, was still being worked on.

He could not say when their appeal would be heard.

At least three other condemned prisoners who were sentenced after Molefe and Sampson have already been executed whilst the two are still waiting for their appeal to be heard.
The practice of death penalty has seen relations between Botswana and South Africa going sour because of Botswana’s insistence in practicing the death penalty.

This follows after some Batswana, Emmanuel Tsebe and Jerry Tlhale, had allegedly murdered their lovers and skipped the country into South Africa. Tsebe was arrested in South Africa after South African Police were tipped off then Botswana successfully mounted an extradition request. After the trial, a South African Court ruled that he should be extradited to stand trial in Botswana.

South Africa abolished the death penalty long ago.

On the other hand, the Minister of Justice in South Africa demanded assurance from the highest office in Botswana that Tsebe would not be executed if found guilty. Botswana gave no such assurance and South Africa released Tsebe, granting him asylum there.

Just weeks ago, Tlhale was released from jail even before an extradition trial was held. There is still a stalemate on how this problem, which is threatening the security of the two countries, will be handled.

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