Friday, October 23, 2020

Questions raised about existence of Clemency Board

A week after Court of Appeal judges dismissed an appeal brought by death row inmate, Gerald Dube, questions are being asked on whether it is worthwhile for his lawyer, Ookeditse Maphakwane, to make a plea to the Clemency Board, asking it to save his condemned client from the gallows.

This follows after the realisation that all past requests for pardon made to the Board were not successful.
One Gaborone attorney, Tshiamo Rantao, thinks that going to the Board to plead for clemency at this stage is just a waste of time. This, he says, is so because he does not know of any case where the Board had ruled otherwise after the Court of Appeal had confirmed the death sentence.

”I do not know of any case in the past where a condemned prisoner was saved by the Board. Thinking that Dube will be saved by the Board will be a very unreasonable assumption to say the least,” he said.

Lobatse-based lawyer, Tobokane Chilume, however, has a different view on this matter.

Though he agrees that no condemned prisoner was ever pardoned by the Board since its inception, he says that, if one is lawyer representing a condemned prisoner, he just has to approach it to beg for clemency on behalf of his condemned client who has been sentenced to death and whose appeal had been dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Chilume added that this is a crucial procedure that cannot be skipped.
“This is the last process of a murder trial and I think a lawyer has to do it regardless of how other cases have gone in the past. It is in an attempt to save the life of a condemned prisoner,” he said.

Chilume also says that approaching the board was a worthwhile thing in that it would prove that the lawyer had done all it could to save the life of his client to the last point.

A Directorate of Public Prosecution lawyer, who declined to be named, concurs that all indications are that Dube will be hanged after last week’s verdict by Court of Appeal judges. But he also concurred with Chilume that this does not mean that his lawyer should not approach the Board and ask for clemency.

”That the man will hang is of little doubt at this stage, but that alone does not mean that his lawyer should not approach the board and ask for clemency on behalf of his client,” he said.

Asked about the view held by some that the Board only exists in name and papers, the lawyer says that was difficult to say as he does not have much information on it.

”I do not have much information on the Board. All I know is what I have heard about it and nothing more,” he stressed.
The issue of the Clemency Board always comes up after a condemned prisoner loses their appeal in the Court of Appeal with accusations that the Board either does not exist beyond the papers its written on or that, if it exists at all, it is toothless as it has never made a recommendation that a condemned prisoner be spared from hanging.

Currently, the realization that Dube will indeed hang is strengthened by recent remarks made by President Ian Khama at a kgotla meeting that those who murder others will also have to be hanged.

Dube was sentenced to hang for murdering four people in Francistown in 2001.

Maphakwane was expected to approach the Clemency Board this week.

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