The Public Relations Officer at the Attorney General Chambers, Abigail Hlabano, has confirmed that South African authorities had released Emmanuel Tsebe, a Botswana citizen suspected of having murdered his girl friend in Mahalapye in 2007 after which he fled to South Africa.
She said that they had been informed that Tsebe’s release from custody, where he was being held pending his extradition to Botswana as a court in that country had ordered, was on instructions from the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Reforms.
Asked if that could not have been because they had not given a guarantee demanded by the South African government that Tsebe would not be executed if found guilty of murder, Hlabano only confirmed that they had not given a guarantee on the matter but was not able to say why that was the case.
Sources in South Africa say that the lack of guarantee is the reason why the Minister had ordered that Tsebe be released.
The South Africans, who have long abolished the death sentence after their first democratic elections in 1994, always demand that such a guarantee be given before they extradite a murder suspect to a country which still employs the death sentence.
In the past, such a guarantee was made by prosecutors who were handling a particular matter. But on this matter, sources say that the South African authorities demanded that the guarantee be made by senior state authorities and that when no such guarantees were delivered, they freed the suspect.
The demand for senior state authorities to issue the guarantee is believed to have arisen from Benson Keganne’s case.
Keganne, who is currently on death row after being found guilty of shooting to death a Phitshane Molopo woman, Gloria Mahowe, in the early 90s was first arrested in Botswana along with one of his counterparts, a South African citizen, who is currently serving a long prison sentence for the crime.
After their arrest, the South African government complained that they had been illegally arrested and moved to Botswana by the Botswana Police. The argument between the two countries took years to resolve but, in the end, the Botswana government gave in and moved the two suspects back to South Africa and a formal trial took place for their extradition and the Court agreed that they be extradited to Botswana.
The South African government then made their demand that they want a guarantee Keganne would not be hanged if found guilty.
After Keganne’s death sentence, the government of Botswana backed away from the guarantee saying that if the Court of Appeal upheld the sentence, Keganne would be hanged.
This new move was confirmed by Gaborone lawyers Dick Bayford and Duma Boko who will be representing Keganne in his appeal.
The two lawyers condemned the move and said it was uncalled for. Security experts, on the other hand, are saying that Botswana and South African criminals are set to make each other’s countries a crime heaven as they know that they will not be arrested if, for example, they commit the crime and skip into Botswana or South Africa.
Asked if the release could also be associated with Keganne’s case, Hlabano said that they are not aware that Keganne’s guarantee had since been removed.
She refused to discuss the issue further saying that the matter was still before the Courts.