Following the recent overturning of his sentence after a short stint behind bars, James Mathokgwane, the disgruntled former Social Worker in the Ministry of Local Government, has trashed claims that he will be actively involved in party politics.
The former Botswana National Front activist says that he now remains only a registered member of the party due to the fatigue and self re-discovery that a short stint of prison life threw at him.
Mathokgwane was earlier this year sentenced by magistrate Nehemiah Mguni to ten years in prison for allegedly raping a minor and was jailed in Mochudi Prison.
From behind those prison walls, he launched a successful appeal which resulted in Acting Lobatse High Court judge, Gabriel Rwelengera, overturning his conviction and setting him free.
Unfortunately, however, in that same period, he was fired by the Ministry that he worked for at the time the allegations against him were made public.
Upon receiving the dismissal, he took legal action against the ministry, suing the ministry for unfair dismal. Mathokgwane won the case and received a fat pay cheque, granted by order of the courts.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Standard, Mathokgwane revealed that prison, which he termed as “hell on earth”, had made him more of a fighter for those important things in life that he once took for granted. He claims prison life, short as it was, only made him stronger.
Mathokgwane says the political instability within the BNF is in no way appealing to him to contest again as a parliamentary candidate on behalf of the party.
BNF politics, he said, has turned into what he called “dirty politics” and is too stressful to an individual who has been falsely accused and tormented by the negative publicity surrounding a case that has dragged his name through the mud.
Rumours did the rounds within the political parties and a good number of BNF members blamed Mathokgwane’s conviction on framing by some political parties, calling it a political conspiracy to get rid of one of their best activists who posed a serious threat to them in the Barolong constituency.
“I don’t know how true the rumours are but the most important thing to remember is that the magistrate ruled on what he thought were appropriate grounds and the High Court overruled the judgment because it didn’t have enough evidence to convict me,” he said.
Mathokgwane, whom some have cited as a ‘fallen hero’, was introduced into politics when he was President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) under the BNF banner at the University of Botswana.
His popularity rose in 1996 when the university closed down due to a full-blown student strike. Led by the SRC, students were demanding justice after the country-famous murder of a Form One student, Segametsi Mogomotsi.
In 1988, Mathokgwane had been a scholar of philosophy in Kenya as he was studying to become a priest, but he quit after 3 years when he realized that his was a different calling.
A Catholic by religion and once the Secretary General of the BNF Youth League as well as Executive Secretary, Mathokgwane stood for parliamentary elections in the Barolong constituency.
“I lost the elections, but I didn’t quit politics because of that; I later had to quit because I was then working for the government and could, therefore, not have a political stand,” says Mathokgwane, adding,
“Politics is not on my agenda for now or in the near future. I am tired of politics, especially the malicious kind and also the type that encourages fear to speak against certain figures in one’s party.”
Last week, the Sunday Standard carried an article which talked about the ailing rehabilitation programmes present in Botswana, especially prisons.
We sort his views on how he sees prison vis-├á-vis the rehabilitation that it is supposed to produce. The former activist said that the rehabilitation offered by the justice system in Botswana is ‘ridiculous’ and might need intercession as it might be creating the opposite of what it was intended to.
“First of all, the place is filthy; the food is nasty and one is forced to hate the environment while their social interaction skills are lost. It gets so bad one is not offered enough space to turn onto their sides when they are sleeping; prison only makes one bitter at the world,” said Mathokgwane.
Sadique Kebonang Attorneys are now his new employers and he is also trying to make ends meet by running a consultancy firm in the region.
His plans are now to get married and take care of his two children.
“My heart goes out to the little girl who accused me of rape because I can see that she has psychological and emotional scars that might possibly haunt her for life,” says Mathokgwane.