Last week Friday, Police in Mahalapye received a report in which the Mahalapye Magistrates Courts was said to have been set on fire. According to an article which appeared on The Voice Newspaper, it is alleged that unknown culprits broke into Mahalapye Magistrates Court and set the building on fire, destroying hundreds of criminal files. The fire is said to have been noticed by a night watchman who was raising the national flag in the morning.
It is alleged that the culprits entered the court premises by jumping over the screen wall and gained entry through the emergency exit door which had been left open before they proceeded to the Criminal Records Registry where they set it on fire. The article further states that the culprits damaged 13 door locks and 360 active criminal files.
This week, the Registrar and Master, Michael Motlhabi, of the high court issued a statement assuring Batswana not to panic by the arson incident and that no files were unaccounted for. Motlhabi states that the automated system being the, Court Records Management System retains duplicate electronic files both locally and headquarters which will replace the physical files. “This serves to assure the public, litigants and other stakeholders that contingent measures have been put in place to ensure business continuity in case adjudication and uninterrupted service delivery,” he said.
He added that in the meantime three Mobile Traffic Court buses have been sourced from the magistrate’s courts of Gaborone, Francistown, and Palapye and have been placed at the Mahalapye court premises for temporary court adjudication until all smoke intrusion has been cleared.
“This facility has enabled us to retrieve the destroyed case files and to continue court as usual. We went through a similar experience when the maintenance wing of the Selebi-Phikwe Magistrates Courts was destroyed by fire, and there it was also business as usual,” he explained. He made it clear that destroying papers as was the intention in this case will no longer succeed due to the disaster recovery systems they have in place. “Deliberate acts of arson are not only expensive to the judiciary but they also have detrimental effects on the economy of the country and will be dealt with firmly,” he concluded.
Speaking to The Botswana Gazette, station commander of Mahalapye Police No 16 district, Senior Superintendent Modisaotsile Bonang said up to now they have no leads on the case and no suspects have been arrested.