The question of whether dangerous crime suspects should be given bail is a burning issue currently. This has been fuelled even more this week after the Botswana Police announced on Monday that they were on the hunt for a 19-year old Keodiretse Tlhofaetsi of Ledumadumane. Through the assistance of the community, he was eventually arrested yesterday on Tuesday. He is alleged to have murdered a 21-year old woman of Mogobane this past weekend in Ledumadumane, and he is also suspected to have assaulted and inflicted serious wounds to a 26 -year old man the same day.
At the time of committing these crimes, Tlhofaetsi was on bail for the offence of murder he allegedly committed in September 2016. Recently, another suspect on bail was caught up in another case of stabbing, while several others who have been arrested in recent weeks were also reported to have been on bail. Family members of the recently-murdered cab driver are currently seething in anger after the two suspects in the killing were also released on bail earlier this month.
The incidents have left some Batswana questioning the judicial system and its procedures, and they are now threatening to take the law into their own hands to sort the transgressors out. Two weeks back, social media reaction to the release of the alleged cab driver killers was brutal to the judicial system. The people want to ensure criminals think twice before pouncing on the innocent, and they are calling for an eye for an eye operation. This week too, social media is awash with comments on Tlhofaetsi’s case. While some resorted to attacking the system, others are openly calling for a change of law, saying they no longer feel safe because bail gives the same suspects a chance to go out and commit more serious crimes.
“We are fed up as a nation, you kill today and tomorrow you are walking the streets. Government should look into changing laws surrounding bail. We cannot go on like this. It does not make sense to give a murder suspect bail, they are a threat to human life,” said one youth Kaone Sebereko from Serowe. Lebaone Lesedithole in Gaborone claims that her uncle was recently butchered and the suspect is now free after being granted bail. She explained how she is tortured daily by the ugly scenes of her uncle’s lifeless body and knowing that his “killer is out there somewhere,” sends chills down her spine. However, Oratile Koone, a criminal and civil lawyer, told The Midweek Sun that bail was important in that it gave the accused a fair chance to be investigated.
“Nobody is labeled a criminal until proven guilty, we should appreciate the importance of bail because not all are guilty.” He stood his ground and defended his case saying the Botswana law is sufficient as far as bail out is concerned. He said if the law was to be reviewed it might oppress the accused people. “Repeat offenders are of great concern but let us not act irrationally because of emotions,” he added. He revealed that normally those who are given bail are first time offenders regardless of the type of offence.
Koone argued that the court only approves bail when confident that the alleged criminal is not a flight risk, With regard to Tlhofaetsi’s case, he said Batswana should remain calm because the suspected killer has now revoked his bail conditions and the court will not be lenient on him again. Meanwhile, another criminal lawyer who preferred to speak anonymously lashed out at the prosecutors for failing to provide the court with substantial evidence that will ensure that that the suspects are denied bail pending trial. The lawyer said the Directorate of Public Prosecutions should up their game also and not make the accused wait for close to five years before their case can be heard.
Assistant Police Commissioner, Public Relations Officer Superintendent Dipheko Motube said they are always on the run because of repeat offenders. Even though he could not present any figures, Motube said they are greatly disturbed by suspects who are given bail only for them to turn around and commit more crimes. Nevertheless, he said Botswana Police is not against bail out but wishes the DPP could speed up their processes saying they have a backlog of cases. “I wish the justice system can overcome whatever creates this delay,” Motube said.
But Batswana are beginning to show no patience and are calling for an all-out war on criminals. They say they are growing restless because of the escalating crime rate and are now resorting to dealing with the criminals themselves. Thieves are heavily assaulted and beaten week in and out. A few days ago in Gaborone, a suspected thief was left begging for his life after receiving slaps, blows, stones, lashes and kicks from all directions. He was left helplessly begging for mercy as he sprawled on the ground, blood gushing out of his mouth, nose and just under the eye.
The man was alleged to have snatched a cell-phone from one lady who was a passenger in a kombi. Another young man was also beaten to a pulp by a mob in Gaborone West after he had taken a lady’s bag and phone at knife-point. Those who know him expressed frustration that the same lad had been arrested before for similar offences, yet he continues to somehow come back to terrorise the community. He too received a fair share of stoning, kicking and slapping from the angry mob. They shouted, “These things deserve to die. We are tired of living in fear in our own homes. We should be allowed to own guns and kill them…” Borakanelo Police Station Commander Superintendent Mothusi Phadi has however warned that criminals should not be beaten but rather taken to the police. He said if any person were to die from mob justice administration, the police would not hesitate to arrest those responsible for the murder.