Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Law society cries fowl as Francistown attorney is arrested and detained without charge

The law society of Botswana has expressed concern at the continued arrest and detaining of members of the public without charge. This follows the recent arrest of Francistown attorney Mboni Falco Manyothwane of Manyothwane and Associates, who was arrested and detained, and later released without charge.

The Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Botswana Tebogo Moipolai told The Sunday Standard that Manyothwane wrote a letter to the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime on November 6th, informing them that he has been instructed by his client to represent her in an ongoing corruption investigation at a certain government department.

On the same day, presumably following receipt of this letter, a DCEC officer who identified himself as Mr. German informed Attorney Manyothwane that he and his client were required by the DCEC. Following consultation with his client, Manyothwane informed Mr. German that his client was out of town and would only be available the following Monday. Mr. German did not express any misgivings on this report by Attorney Manyothwane.

Officers from the DCEC would later visit Manyothwane at his offices on the afternoon of the same day, whereupon they asked him to accompany them to his offices. Upon reaching the DCEC offices, he was informed that he was under arrest for interfering with an investigation. He was then detained at the instance of officers German, Sesinyi and Tshawanelo of the DCEC at the Francistown Police Station. He was also not allowed to contact anyone, and was only able to contact his legal counsel after a struggle. His lawyer, Attorney Ngwenya also had to go through a similar struggle to meet Manyothwane.

Manyothwane was finally granted bail at about 2200 hours that night, albeit without being charged. To date he has not been charged with any offence.

“The Society notes with concern that the wanton arrest of members of the public without charge, for them to be released within 48 hours seems to continue unabated. Security personnel with powers of arrest have from time immemorial held this misconception that it is acceptable to arrest without cause if they release you within 48 hours. If lawyers are subjected to this intimidation, what chances do the rest of the members of the Society have against this “self help”. This must stop”said Moipolai.

He added that the holding of persons in cells incommunicado must also be condemned because it is not only deprivation of one’s rights but also a form of torture.

“The Society has written to the Director of the DCEC requiring her to confirm that the actions of her officers do not represent a deliberate policy of the Directorate to deny the public of their Constitutional rights to legal representation through arbitrary arrests and intimidation of their legal representatives. Further she has been required to undertake an investigation into this matter and take appropriate action against the culprits. The Society believes that only such action on the part of the Director can allay fears that State security agents may now be targeting legal practitioners in a bid to silence legitimate efforts towards protection of the Rule of Law and Constitutional Rights” concluded Moipolai. The DCEC had not replied to The Sunday Standard questionnaire by the time of going to print.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.