Sunday, May 29, 2022

Magistrate given protection after threats from Bakgatla regiment

Police sources say that Chief Magistrate, Barnabas Nyamadzabo, has been granted round the clock protection, following threats to his life after he refused to allow the Bakgatla tribe’s flogging case to be heard before the High Court.

The Sunday Standard has been informed that Nyamadzabo has, since Wednesday this week, been offered police escort by the state following threats to his life by some individuals masquerading as the BaKgatla regiment, ‘Madibela Nkwe’, notorious for executing floggings before trial for alleged customary law transgressions.

Although the Botswana Police Service spokesman, Chris Mbulawa, claimed no knowledge of such protection, the Sunday Standard can, relying on police sources, reveal that the magistrate has been given refuge at one peri-urban area (known to this publication) complete with a strong police escort.
Nyamadzabo refused an application by the BaKgatla tribe to have their flogging case transferred to the High Court, seeking interpretation whether or not corporal punishment was a lawful sanction of rule infraction under customary law. He could not be reached for comment.

Nyamadzabo dismissed Bakgatla’s application saying it would be an abuse of court processes no matter how strong the defence argued its case.

The Bakgatla paramount chief, Kgafela II, and his younger brother, Mmusi, are the main protagonists in the case that some view as a direct challenge to the presidency of Ian Khama as it relates to the powers vested on traditional leaders.

Kgafela has, just like President Ian Khama, employed punitive measures, purportedly supported by his tribe, to curb indulgence in alcohol. While the President has employed an alcohol levy to arrest over indulgence, Kgafela’s regiment has found solace in flogging those who imbibe in alcoholic beverages, saying they were instilling discipline amongst the tribe.

The regiments, who are supposed to be protectors of the chief, are accused of being the law unto themselves for their alleged whipping of citizens even before they are tried in the customary court.

Kgafela has refused to serve at the House of Chiefs (Ntlo ya Dikgosi) under the government payroll, citing that the roles of a chief are more than just presiding over customary cases and taking decisions under the watchful eye of a minister. He is the only paramount chief in the country who is not a member of the ‘Ntlo ya Dikgosi’ yet, like his late father, commands remarkable respect from the Bakgatla tribe from the two countries of Botswana and South Africa.

He was initially represented by advocate Sidney Pilane, a former presidential advisor, before former High Court Judge Unity Dow took over the case.

Both Pilane and Dow are Bakgatla who venerate their chief and who are critical of the state of affairs in the country’s democracy and, by extension, under Khama’s administration.

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