PAC grills Ministry of Defence on death penalty
The Public Accounts Committee put the Ministry of Defence on the spotlight on Monday on the controversial issue of death penalty, which the ministry would rather have it be swept under the carpet. Appearing before the committee, the ministry’ permanent secretary and accounting officer, Segakweng Tsiane, declined to discuss the death penalty when PAC members posed questions to her citing discomfort in discussing about the issue.
“I am not in a position to answer because there are a lot of issues that I still need to look into. I therefore request that this matter be deferred to some other time because I came here not prepared for this one,” she said. “ This question requests for your normal operational matters-counseling sessions. It is for you to answer simply whether there is provision of counseling sessions to the hangmen and the person who signs the execution warrant or not because the execution process is very traumatic,” PAC member Guma Moyo stated. “ I feel uncomfortable talking about this issue,” Tsiane repeated, much to the dissatisfaction of Dithapelo Keorapetse who charged “ I don’t think the committee should be constrained by the comfort or otherwise of the accounting officer. Accounting officers have appeared before the PAC before, answering very uncomfortable questions. I don’t think we should be dissuaded from discussing the issue because the accounting officer is uncomfortable. We are asking this accounting officer, who is implementing government policies and also charged with advising on improvement of policies , enactment of new laws and regulations on issues that members of the public raise on a daily basis. I think it is only fair for the accounting officer to respond to the questions posed to her.”
Coming to the rescue of Tsiane, Botswana Prisons Commissioner Silas Setlalekgosi was summoned to chip in as the questions were directed to his department. In his response, he said there was pre and post counseling sessions given to the hangmen and that the services were both local and outsourced.
Adding to Moyo’s line of questioning, Keorapetse asked the accounting officer if the Ministry had any advices or improvements to government on notifying members of the family of the executed inmate before execution, releasing the dead body to the family for burial, inviting the media to witness the execution like in other countries and whether there was a need to explore other methods of administering death penalty like lethal injection.
“This matter is a complex and big policy issue and it’s a matter that is under debate at different levels. For now, I request that this matter be allowed to be debated at a different forum,” she said, adding that the matter has also been raised by the Human Rights Council. “ We are yet to come up with appropriate decisions.”
Tsiane stated that there are issues that still need to be discussed locally and internationally on death penalty thus she could not discuss the matter especially that she was not briefed that the matter would be discussed. “ Had I known that the issue would be raised, I would have consulted with my minister and the Attorney General because this is not easy.”