A Lobatse High Court judge has sentenced security agents convicted of the killing of John Kalafatis to custodial sentences as promised, ending a landmark case that has sparked much controversy.
Justice David Newman found Botswana Defence Force officers, Gotshosamang Sechele, Ronny Matako and Boitshoko Maifala, guilty of shooting Kalafatis to death while they were on duty.
At their conviction, Newman promised a custodial sentence because of extenuating circumstances surrounding the case.
Their colleague, Dzikamani Mothobi, was, however, convicted of accessory after the fact – a charge that says that although he participated in the offence, he did not directly shoot Kalafatis.
Spelling out the sentence, Newman indicated that he was conscious of the personal circumstances surrounding the convicts, but added that such conditions would not deter him from reaching a sound discretion as expected of him by the nation.
“I have taken on board the family circumstances of the convicted persons, their unblemished criminal records and their years of dedication to duty within the defence force,” said Newman. “It is evident that the nature of their duties, at the time of the incident, had taken them outside their normal ‘comfort zone’, as serving soldiers within the Force. By this I mean that they were not on active service or performing regular military functions or even in uniform. Rather, they were part of special category of Defence Force members who had been assigned by the Commander to support and give assistance to the Botswana Police Service in discharge of their duties,” he said.
He continued: “However, on the other side of the balancing equation, this court has not lost sight of the fact that the right thinking members of society expect our law enforcement officers to display the highest standards of discipline and decorum in the performance of their duties,” Newman said, adding, “In my view, the behaviour of the type exhibited by these four men on the fateful day can only erode public confidence in our criminal justice system.”
He then sentenced Sechele, Matako and Maifala to eleven years imprisonment while their colleague was given a four-year sentence, three of which were wholly suspended for three years on condition he does not commit a similar offence during the period of suspension.
The prison sentence retrospectively commences on June 1st 2011 with the judge ordering the exhibits (guns and ammunition) to be forfeited to the state and advising the defence that any appeal should be lodged within six weeks.
Defence lawyer, Thabiso Nfila, would not comment over a possible appeal, saying he would have to consult with his clients who would direct him on the way forward.
The convicts were quickly whisked away, with some authorities blocking photographers from taking any pictures of them.