MPs call for public consultations on the issue
Government last week declined the proposal to allow families of prisoners executed following capital punishment by the state- to bury them. The proposition was made by Gaborone Central MP Dr. Phenyo Butale.
The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi told parliament that government had no plans to change the law governing the burial of such prisoners any time soon. “I wish to state that currently the Government has no intention to amend the law governing the burial of condemned prisoners,” he said.
He noted that the burial of the body of an executed prisoner is governed by law, in particular Section 120 (4) of the Prisons Act Cap. 21:03 and Regulation 79 of the Prisons Regulations. In terms of Section 120 (4) of the Act which states that, “The body of the executed prisoner shall be buried in the grounds of the prison in such manners as the Minister may require. Regulation 79 provides as follows; for the burial of the body of an executed prisoner, the Government shall provide without charge a coffin and such linen material as is necessary to ensure a decent burial.”
The Act also states that no relative or friend outside the Prison Service or any other member of the public shall attend the burial of the body of an executed prisoner. A minister of religion may be permitted to conduct such brief religious rites at the burial of the body of executed prisoners as the deceased may have requested; but no further or other ceremony shall take place at the burial.
A death row inmate, Kgathi noted, will have met his or her death lawfully through the state implementing a court order. He said the burial therefore lies with the state, and not with any other person. Dr. Butale had asked the minister if he would consider allowing victims of capital punishment to be buried by their relatives for them to have closure.
MP for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi who noted the importance of consultation on the matter, said some people have expressed their wish to bury their relatives.
“Do you not think maybe it is important for you to just find out from members of the public their feeling regarding this? This is because the people that we meet out there tell us that they would rather prefer that they be allowed to bury the deceased. Given that is what people want, do you not think it is important for you to bring that Act for amendment?” he asked. Kgathi however said MPs knew which steps to take if they wanted such an amendment.