A total of 47 prisoners have been executed by hanging since 1966. The first executions took place on November 12, 1966 when David Sejamo and Lemmenyane Digogwana were executed on the same date. So far this year the last execution has been that of a Letlhakane man, Orelesitse Thokamolelo, 33, on May 27, 2013.
The application of capital punishment in Botswana formally came into existence in 1965 with the introduction of the Penal Code.
The three crimes punishable by death in Botswana are pre-meditated murder, treason and espionage.
Treason is defined as attempting to overthrow the government, forcibly changing the law or government policies, usurping the State’s executive power, assisting the enemy in wartime, assisting anyone who threatens the security of the State, or instigating invasion of the State.
In espionage cases, if a person has been found guilty of providing intelligence to the enemy with intention to assist the enemy, they face the death penalty.
However, the death penalty is not automatic and the Courts can exercise discretion in extenuating circumstances.
Botswana is one of the few countries in the SADC region that has not abolished the death penalty. The others are Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
A total of 17 out of Africa’s 54 states have abolished the death penalty. Statistics indicate that 37 African countries still retain the death penalty on their statute books, although in 22 of these countries there is a moratorium on executions.
Ditshwanelo, Botswana human rights organisation, together with other human rights organizations around the world, remains opposed to the death penalty, and they state that they will continue to campaign for its abolishment in Botswana.
In arguing for the abolition of the death penalty Ditshwanelo says that “Human life should not be judged merely by the numbers. It is a matter of the principle of whether or not the death penalty supports or undermines the fundamental human rights principle of enabling one to live life with dignity. Everyone is born free and equal.”
They say the death penalty fails to respect the right to life and the right not to be subjected to any form of cruel, in-humane or degrading punishment and treatment under Article 5 of the African Charter.