Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Segakweng Tsiane last week told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that she was not comfortable with discussing issues around the death penalty.
She also refused to reveal whether President Ian Khama, who signs death warrants, is provided with counselling before and after the execution.
The process that leads to the execution of a death row inmate involves numerous officials, including prison wardens, officers who carry out the execution and even the President, who signs the death warrant. Tati East Member of Parliament, Guma Moyo wanted to know whether President Ian Khama was also provided with counselling before and after the execution.
He also asked Tsiane to provide evidence that indeed counselling was provided for those who take part in process.
“We are going to write a report at the end of these examinations, I am glad that the accounting officer mentioned that they provide counselling to those who administer death penalty,” said Guma Moyo.
He added: “Can you please submit evidence that counselling does take place, including that of the President as he is part of the execution process? It’s important because we should never think that His Excellency is happy when he signs death warrants. He is part of the panel that administers the execution and he also needs to be counselled.”
In response, Tsiane said it was impossible for her to submit evidence that the President is provided with counselling.
“I must clarify that such counselling does not include His Excellency the President because he has a committee that advises him. So he will not be part of the evidence you are looking for,” she said.
She also declared her discomfort with discussing issues around the death penalty.
“The issue of death penalty is very controversial; it has even been debated at Parliament. In all fairness I am not in any position to answer questions around the death penalty. There are a lot of issues that still need to be looked into,” she said.
Selibe Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse also wanted to know the role of prison officers and the assistance they are given before and after the execution.
“What will be your advice to law makers in terms of whether the death penalty should be stopped or not. Don’t you think we should consider other ways of execution other than hanging, maybe lethal injection?” he asked.
Keorapetse also asked Tsiane why her Ministry does not allow the family of those executed to bury their loved ones. However, Tsiane requested that the matter be differed to another time.
“I feel uncomfortable talking about this issue. As I have said counselling is provided for all of our officers. It is a routine thing. We engage experts in to come and counsel our officers,” she said.
In response, Keorapetse said he does not think the committee should be constrained by the comfort or otherwise of any accounting officer and reminded Tsiane that she was not the first accounting officer to appear before the PAC.
“Other accounting officers have appeared before this committee and they have answered uncomfortable questions. I don’t think we should be persuaded not to discuss uncomfortable issues because the accounting officer is not comfortable,” he said.
He added that accounting officers are charged with implementing government policies and advising on where improvements can be made.
“You should advise us on policies and enactment of new laws. These are the matters that surface on a daily basis. I think it’s only fair for the accounting officer to respond to the questions she is being asked,” he said.
But Tsiane insisted that the matter was too complicated.
“In all fairness, for now the matter is still under debate at different levels and we should allow for that process to continue,” she said.