The Law Society of Botswana has expressed concern at the continued arrest and detention of members of the public without charge.
This follows the recent arrest of Francistown attorney, Mboni Falco Manyothwane, of Manyothwane and Associates, who was last week arrested, detained and later released without charge.
The Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Botswana, Tebogo Moipolai, told The Sunday Standard that Manyothwane wrote a letter to the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime on November 6th, informing them that he has been instructed by his client to represent her in an ongoing corruption investigation at a certain government department.
On the same day, presumably following receipt of this letter, a DCEC officer who identified himself as Mr. German informed Manyothwane that he and his client were required by the DCEC. Following consultation with his client, Manyothwane informed Mr. German that his client was out of town and would only be available the following Monday. Mr. German did not express any misgivings on this report by Manyothwane.
Officers from the DCEC would later visit Manyothwane at his offices on the afternoon of the same day, whereupon they asked him to accompany them to his offices. Upon reaching the DCEC offices, he was informed that he was under arrest for interfering with DCEC investigations. He was then detained at the insistence of officers German, Sesinyi and Tshawanelo of the DCEC at the Francistown Police Station. He was also not allowed to contact anyone, and was only able to contact his legal counsel after a struggle. His lawyer, Attorney Ngwenya, also had to go through a similar struggle to meet Manyothwane.
Manyothwane was finally granted bail at about 2200 hours that night, albeit without being charged. To date the Law Society maintains that he has not been charged with any offence.
“The Society notes with concern that the wanton arrest of members of the public without charge, for them to be released within 48 hours seems to continue unabated. Security personnel with powers of arrest have from time immemorial held this misconception that it is acceptable to arrest without cause if they release suspects within 48 hours. If lawyers are subjected to this intimidation, what chances do the rest of the members of the society have? This must stop,” said Moipolai.
He added that the holding of persons in cells incommunicado must also be condemned because it is not only deprivation of one’s rights but also a form of torture.
DCEC spokesperson, Lentswe Motshoganetsi, confirmed on Friday that Manyothwane was arrested in connection with DCEC investigations, adding that the attorney was later released after filing an urgent application for release.
“However, we cannot comment further on the issue as it is still a classified matter,” he said.
The Law Society insists that it has written to the Director of the DCEC requiring her to confirm that the actions of her officers do not represent a deliberate policy of the Directorate to deny the public of their Constitutional rights to legal representation through arbitrary arrests and intimidation of their legal representatives. But Motshoganetsi maintains that they are still awaiting the alleged correspondence.
“The DCEC is still awaiting the alleged correspondence from the Law Society and should it come, we will follow the appropriate channels in communicating the issue. The matter centers on on-going investigations that have procedures to follow and we cannot discuss them with the media for now,” he said.
But the Law Society insists that they have further required the DCEC director to undertake an investigation into the matter and take appropriate action against the culprits.
“The Society believes that only such action on the part of the Director can allay fears that State security agents may now be targeting legal practitioners in a bid to silence legitimate efforts towards protection of the Rule of Law and Constitutional Rights,” concluded Moipolai.
But Motshoganetsi maintains that the DCEC operates within the confines of the law and will continue to do so as long as the mandate to spearhead the fight against corruption and economic crime is still valid.
“It is also worth noting that in the mandate of fighting corruption and economic crime, every individual will be treated the same irrespective of their profession or position in society,” he concluded.