Ten years after first being arrested in connection with the murder of two Zimbabwean men, and three years after being convicted and sentenced to death by Lobatse High Court judge Maruping Dibotelo, Botswana citizen Brandon Sampson and South African Michael Molefe are still languishing in jail, with no dates set for their appeal to be heard.
The two convicted murderers have been on the death row longer than any of Botswana’s four death row inmates. Some who were convicted after them have already had their appeals heard while others have been executed.
Modise Fly Mokwadi, who was sentenced to death much later than the two, is presently awaiting the outcome of his appeal at the end of this month. He was found guilty of murdering his son.
Zimbabwean national Gerald Dube was executed in December last year after he was found guilty of murdering his lawyer cousin, her two children and their maid.
Ookeditse Maphakwane, who represents one of the death row inmates, Molefe, said that he has long filed all the necessary appeal documents with the Court of Appeal, and he is still waiting for the court to allocate the date of the hearing.
“I have long filed my appeal documents with the court, and it is now up to the administrators to allocate a slot for the case. I do not know why they are taking so long. They will be better placed to explain that”, he said.
The Master and Registrar of the Court of Appeal Michael Motlhabi admitted that the appeals have taken too long to be heard, explaining that the appeal is a lengthy process that takes a considerable time to transcribe.
He further said that due to the work involved it may not be realistic at this stage to give a specific date for its completion.
“The appeal is a lengthy process, and this case has understandably taken considerable time to transcribe. Due to the work involved, it will not be realistic at this stage to give specific date for its completion”, he said.
Sampson and Molefe have been convicted of murdering the Zimbabweans after an illegal money deal went sour. Molefe’s case got vast media coverage from his country of origin, South Africa, which has long abolished the death penalty.
His family members attended his sentencing and thereafter expressed concern that Botswana was still practicing the death penalty.
If his appeal fails, he will be the second South African to be executed in the country, after Marieta Bosch who was executed after being convicted of murdering another woman.
The other death row inmates in Botswana are Benson Keganne, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Pitsane woman Gloria Mahowe, and the duo of Raymond Leshomo and Arnold Masango , who were sent to the gallows for the murder of fellow mine worker Mark Lottering in Francistown.
Keganne’s appeal was postponed to the next session of the court of appeal after his attorney Joar Salbany told the Court that he only received his record in December and was not yet prepared for the appeal.
Botswana has executed 43 people since Independence in 1966. This is despite calls for the country to abolish the death penalty. Upfront amongst those making the calls has been Botswana Human Rights Organization (Ditshwanelo), which argues that death penalty is not a deterrent to murder. President Ian Khama Seretse Khama has vowed that the death sentence will continue. Since ascending to power in April 2008, Khama has already sanctioned the execution of two prisoners.