I am addressing this letter to you in my capacity as Kgosi Kgolo of Bakgatla Ba Kgafela. The letter is a follow up to my telephone discussion with you last week Friday when I indicated that I was in the process of conducting similar discussions with various other civil society organisations whose inherent object is the preservation of human life and the defence of human rights. These organisations as indicated to you include Ditshwanelo ÔÇô The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, MISA, The Botswana Law Society, The Botswana Council of Churches, The Muslim Community, The Bahai Faith and fundamentally, Dikgosi of this country. This same letter is being addressed to each of them.
I was prompted to call and discuss with you as I did by a very troubling state of affairs that has presently gripped our Nation and is threatening fundamental values of our society which are enshrined in the Constitution of Botswana. These values are the individuals’ right to life and a guarantee that we shall all be protected by the law of Botswana and be treated evenly before it.
On the 13th of May 2009 Mr John Kalafatis was gunned down execution style by personnel employed by the Government of Botswana. It has come to surface that incidents of a similar nature have occurred in the past 12 months involving about 8 other deaths of innocent civilians. None of the persons involved in carrying out the killing of citizens as aforesaid has presently been brought before a Court of law as provided by the Laws of Botswana for justice to take its course. It is, and should be, a matter of grave concern to any member of the Botswana community who has a conscience that:
1. So far, there has been no credible explanation from state organs to gainsay alarming information placed before the public by the private media.
2. All such information in the public domain, particularly in respect of the John Kalafatis shooting, suggests and points strongly to a case of pre-meditated murder, or in the very least, a killing devoid of any justification provided under the Constitution of Botswana.
3. The Laws of Botswana are crystal clear on what should have happened in a homicide case. The suspect is to be arrested, taken into police custody and in due course brought before a Court of law for the homicide to be thoroughly interrogated and justice to be done. No one, not even security forces, enjoys special immunity against these laws.
4. Whilst this law inevitably applies in respect to any other person suspected of being responsible for causing the death of another, the same is evidently not taking place in respect of the assailants of Mr John Kalafatis’ or those responsible for the 8 other killings of citizens that have taken place.
5. As a result, a state of affairs unknown in Botswana values has been created whereby certain members of our society presently stand above the law. This essentially spells a Constitutional crisis unprecedented in gravity and implications for the future.
6. Whilst we may have differences as to how best to approach and resolve the crisis, the common denominator that unifies men and women of conscience is that we cannot, and should not allow, under any circumstances, that this state of affairs should exist or be tolerated amongst us for one moment.
7. Each day that passes without the law taking its course brings about with it enhanced terror amongst members of our community, more mistrust, anger, hatred and generally powerful negative emotions that serve to divide us as a nation.
Civil society is outraged, as clearly illustrated through the publications that have been ongoing in the past 3 to 4 weeks .However, and this is the most unfortunate, the tendency in this country is that civil society has proved itself to be lacking in stamina to sustain a campaign for truth and human rights. This weakness is exacerbated by apathy and disunity amongst us. The majority of our members is completely terrified and would rather carry on their daily lives with the hope that some unidentified person somewhere will fight for common good.
This is the sheep pen syndrome that has allowed, for many years in different societies, for a handful of villains to control the masses and trample upon constitutional values without check.
The people responsible for the killings, be it actual gunmen or their handlers, are surely small in number and do not represent the Government of this country, which belongs to all of us and is being run largely by law abiding, humble servants of this land from the top end of the civil service right down to the bottom. The vast majority of our police officers and soldiers are good people at heart and are similarly outraged by these killings. These are our brothers, sisters, relatives and friends with whom we eat and drink daily.
It is essential that we as a Nation should vigilantly be alive to the need not to allow ourselves to be divided by such a small number who do not represent our nature as Batswana, nor allow our vital image as a proud nation to be tarnished by a few. These characters must critically, and as a matter of urgency, be isolated for proper attention to be focused on them and not “Botswana”.
Presently, civil society organisations are expressing the same outrage from different houses. However, it appears that the effort to find truth and justice is not coordinated and is likely to suffer the same fate of fading to oblivion, unless the good men and women of this country come together to speak with one voice against the few outcasts of our society. I believe that Dikgosi have an inherent duty to unite their communities around a common good. This is how I perceive my role and primary duty. As such, I have taken it upon myself and have urged other Dikgosi to do likewise, to unite civil society for the defence of truth and the laws of our land. We intend to do this maturely, firmly and with the greatest respect for our laws, our communities and individual members thereof and generally with the dignity expected of our office as Dikgosi. It is in this spirit that I have invited your organisation and others mentioned above to join hands in this cause.
As a first step forward, I have proposed to all, as I do to you, that we should hold our first meeting on a date and time convenient to everybody. I suggest that this meeting be held on Tuesday 16th June at six in the evening at the Kgotla in Tlokweng where Kgosi Kgolo Puso Gaborone sits. Suggestions for alternative dates, time and venue are welcome. We may meet around a fire at my private Kgotla at the royal residence in Mochudi. I am flexible on this.
The purpose of the meeting, amongst other objectives which may be proposed by attendees, is the following:
(a) To identify common ground.
(b) To share and collate information concerning the issues of concern highlighted above, extending beyond the Kalafatis killing to all killings of a similar nature that have taken place in the past months.
(c) To agree on an effective common approach and identify roles each one of us is to play.
(d) To set up a trust fund for raising capital that shall finance the campaign for truth and justice at various fronts, be it the legal front or lobbying. In respect of the former, which I am more familiar with, I can state at the outset that the defence of human rights is a painfully expensive process which requires 100% dedication of legal team. Where human life is at stake and liberties are under threat from due process, the exercise will become even more expensive extending into millions of Pula if we seriously desire to achieve our objectives. Messrs Boko and Bayford, who are representing the Kalafatis family, certainly will not manage or sustain the legal campaign alone.
(e) Any other matters that may be suggested by attendees.
Identification of the list of organisations I have spoken to was not meant to be exclusive. It is meant only to commence a process of unifying civil society around a common course.
It is my wish that all persons who shall participate in this forum, whether now or in the long run, will fully appreciate the need to uphold the common goal (truth and justice) above individual /personal interests. It is also my hope that, in due course, we shall succeed to rope into the forum our faithful brothers, friends and relatives in the army and police force, members of the ruling party and opposition party members who have a conscience and the courage to stand for truth and justice.
The bottom line in the end of this all is that whatever happens (now or in the future), irrespective of the language and terminology one may employ to describe laws and procedures, the law of this land remains constant: the persons responsible for murdering Mr Kalafatis , and other seven or eight citizens shot by security forces must , without question, be brought before a Court of law so that the law takes its course as it does with any other individual within the jurisdiction of our Court. This fundamental value is non negotiable. Nothing else matters.
The police must, as a matter of top priority, isolate these individuals (gunmen and handlers), in the same way they customarily do in every other case, and place them before the Court; not only for reasons of compliance with the law, but pertinently, in order that attention may properly focus on them as opposed to a general focus on Government. This is what I stand for and intend to see happen.
I personally reject any suggestions of a lengthy irrelevant procedure of an inquest which can only serve to delay the inevitable Constitutional process at great costs to this nation. Every day delayed in bringing the suspects before the Law Courts has the effect of tearing us apart as a Nation through fear, mistrust, and enormous anxiety: you name it all. Every day delayed brings about fresh waves of unnecessary embarrassment to our leadership and this nation. The delay cannot be allowed.
Further, and lastly, this nation is made up of intelligent men and women who surely cannot be expected to sit back quietly and wait because we are told that an investigation is ongoing, when absolutely nothing is being fed to the public in information to assure it that the concerns raised are receiving appropriate attention of the law.
These are some of the matters which our meeting should address very carefully because the state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue if we still want to see ourselves united in the next few months.