Welcome to the Daily News – Prisons Execute …….
President Mokgweetsi Masisi should be congratulated for reversing the previous regime’s decision to declare human rights lawyer Joao Salbany a prohibited immigrant even going as far as apologising for what he described as a “mistake.”
However, it is a great shame that the President did not extend his powers to save the life of 37 year old Uyapa Poloko who was executed at Gaborone’s Central Prison on Friday, 25th for the 2010 murder of a retired Indian businessman in Francistown.
Salbany got his “life” back, but not Poloko, as Botswana continues to retain the death penalty in law and practice. Poloko is the second Motswana to be hanged this year, and Botswana is among a minority of countries in Africa which continue with state execution on the statute books.
Botswana’s stubborn preservation of the death penalty has been rightly condemned by the European Union and human rights groups around the world – although Defence, Justice and Security Minister is quoted as saying Botswana is not a “copycat” and the EU can “sit on its opinions on capital punishment because Botswana is not interested in hearing them.”
There is no evidence that the existence of capital punishment does anything to deter violent crimes and therefore its continuation in Botswana can only be for reasons of revenge in an “eye for an eye” culture. One of the most prominent supporters of the death penalty was the late Kgosi Linchwe of the BaKgatla. That was until he actually witnessed an execution. Back in the day the hangman in Botswana was a South African who, having gained plenty of practice during Apartheid, was always brought to Botswana to carry out the executions – a kind of contract killer!! Having witnessed the horrific site of a man dangling from a rope, Kgosi Linchwe is reported to have said the job of hangman should never be localised, and that Botswana should stop the barbarous practice.
The death penalty is universally condemned as a cruel and inhumane punishment which represents a grave denial of human dignity and integrity – however heinous and brutal the condemned person may have committed.
Earlier this year, Botswana promised to review the death penalty and it is a tragedy that President Masisi did not exercise presidential clemency and institute the review in time to save Poloko’s life. It is also a pity that we, the media, did not spend as much time and effort on campaigning for him, as it has done for Salbany.
The decision by the President to reverse the declaration of Salbany as a prohibited immigrant shows the power of the media when it acts collectively. The same energy and passion should be directed to abolishing the death penalty in Botswana.
We call upon the President to announce an immediate moratorium on any further executions and institute a Commission and public debate on whether the State in Botswana should still exact revenge through the hangman’s noose.