Remarks by Attorney General Athalia Molokomme at the opening of the legal year on extra judicial killings have, at least as of now, thrown in an air of relief among the general populace.
At the opening of the legal year, the Attorney General, in the interest of transparency, revealed that, as it stands, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leatile Dambe, has indicated that she has so far received a total of four dockets with regard to the people killed by security agents.
Over the past few months, this country has recorded close to 14 killings of citizens at the hands of security apparatus. The public has been outraged, rightly.
This outrage has not only been limited to concerns about the number of lives lost, it has also extended to concerns that government ‘plays dead’ when it comes to extra judicial killings.
According to Molokomme, Dambe is in the process of analysing the evidence and taking a stand on whether or not she will prosecute anyone in relation to three of the dockets. Investigations are still underway on the fourth docket.
We subscribe to the Attorney General’s views that quality investigations are often time consuming hence delay by the DPP to make a pronouncement on the fate of those involved in extra judicial killings.
That said, it is our judgement that the inordinate length of time that has passed without any news on what course was being taken is worrisome and unforgivable.
Molokomme herself said that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’
We cannot agree with her more.
People need to have confidence in their government.
More importantly they also have to have faith in their legal and judicial processes.
It is in a truly democratic set up that the rule of law thrives. It is in this set up that the government of the day becomes responsive and accountable to the public.
A caring government has to be empathetical to the extent of taking into account not just its image, but the feelings of families that were left in grief when state security forces robbed them of their loved ones.
If murder has been committed, the onus is on the state to bring the perpetrators to book and avenge, on behalf of the families and society at large, the untoward conduct.
If, on the other hand, the evidence is wanting, then authorities have to step forward and inform the nation.
We are not calling on the DPP to charge anyone, that is not in our terrain nor for us to decide, rather, we would like to urge government to expedite the investigations.
Batswana deserve to know for this is the first time in our country that such atrocities have occurred.
It is not surprising that the silence on the part of government when the killings first started has today given birth to a perception that the ‘state has embarked on a policy of executing suspects without bringing them before the courts’ to quote the Attorney General.
It is when investigations are prolonged that people start to get suspicious. It is only when the bureaucracy and politicians charged with the process get complacent that the media bears the onus of critiquing with a view to update members of the public about the progress made so far.
The Attorney General, obviously concerned about the sanctity of the investigations, has appealed to members of the public, the media, and legal practitioners to desist from commenting on the guilt or innocence of possible suspects, motives of government and the police while investigations are still ongoing. We fully embrace her call. We are mindful that only the courts can give a verdict on whether those involved in the shootings are guilty or not.
It is our wish to allow the DPP to exercise her discretion in all these cases without undue influence from public perception.
However, as journalists, like other professional practitioners, we also have an oath of office. It is on this note that we hasten to point out that we will not pay lip service until justice prevails. On the above, we remain defiant that the investigations be expedited.
If the process is done with caution and due regard for the public interest in these issues, then there is no need to worry about the public second guessing about the guilt or otherwise of those involved.