Saturday, October 24, 2020

The mysterious ways in which Botswana’s justice system works

While it has been quick to haul four High Court judges over the coals for receiving housing allowances they were not entitled to, the government has not only been slow to prosecute people who purposefully rigged an electoral process, but has also rewarded one of the suspects.  

Three years ago, a group of people in Francistown concocted a fraudulent bye-election petition, presented it to then Acting President Ponatshego Kedikilwe with the demand that the bye-election be postponed. The delay was to enable the ruling Botswana Democratic Party to field a candidate after it failed to do so in good time. Kedikilwe acceded to such demand but it was later conclusively proven that the petition was a con job that listed names of deceased people. The matter was reported to the Francistown police and the election went ahead without the BDP’s participation. The winner was a Botswana Congress Party candidate who went on to have a very short stint in parliament, being easily defeated by the BDP candidate in the 2014 general election. After this election, one of the people who had been implicated in the petition fraud was made specially elected councilor by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development – himself a BDP member.

This and two other cases involve the Office of the President one way or the other. A year later, following an acrimonious judicial conference in Mahalapye, three High Court judges were suspended for receiving housing allowance they were not entitled to. Following the production of a preliminary (not final) report, President Ian Khama suspended the judges. In the third case, a Water Utilities Corporation based in Maun literally undressed Khama through photoshopping a digital picture. Within a week, security forces had investigated the matter and nabbed the suspect who according to the police, will be charged with “insulting the presidential standard”. 

Once before (2014) a parliamentary question was asked about the Francistown West petition and the answer was that investigations were still being carried out. Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi, has asked the same question again and three years after the fact, the answer is still the same. The only addition to the historical record is that investigations are “at an advanced stage.”

“Hopefully, the police docket containing the outcome of the investigations will soon be referred to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for decision on whether or not the matter requires legal action,” said Thato Kwerepe, the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration later adding that the delay is not purposefully deliberate. “Investigations, as you know, take time because it involves other people.”

What will come across as odd is that the bye-election fiasco involved wilful subversion of a process that is the heartbeat of democracy and affected tens of thousands of residents. On the other hand, the other two cases involve only five individuals (Khama and the four judges) in their personal capacity.

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