LSB on sexual abuse of children

SHARE   |   Monday, 13 June 2016   |   By Law Society Of Botswana
Members of the Law society at a Press conference Members of the Law society at a Press conference

One Lesedi Dintwe has published an article in the Weekendpost newspaper of 21st May 2016 under the Heading, “Council of the Law Society Must Resign”. He purports to write in an official capacity as a member of the Communications and International Relations of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). In the absence of anything to the contrary we treat the article as such. The article makes several allegations and we will deal with each one in the order that it is raised:

2.1 The Law Society has abandoned its mandate in favour of political party objectives
We do not champion any political party objectives. We do however unashamedly champion protection of Human Rights and the Rule of Law. The issue on which we commented is about sexual abuse of children. As with all others who commented, the BDP leadership included, the Society expressed its disgust at the sexual abuse of a school-going girl in Sebina and the scourge in general. How the Law Society’s expression of support for Children’s Rights is party political defeats logic. For avoidance of doubt and for the education of Mr. Dintwe and his ilk, the mandate of the Society, as with all Law Societies and Bar Associations which are members of the International Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Pan African Lawyers’ Union and SADC Lawyers Association, includes protection and enhancement of the Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

2.2 The Law Society has wrongfully condemned an alleged perpetrator before a court has determined the matter
A simple reading of paragraph 1 of the Statement of the Law Society dated 11th May 2016 will show the repeated use of the word “alleged” or “allegedly”. The choice of the word was deliberate and intended to indicate that the Law Society has no independent confirmation that the facts in the public domain are correct or true. The Law Society however makes an opinion on the discussion as published. At paragraph 4 the Society expresses its gratification that the Police are investigating the matter to determine if an offence has been committed. How this could be seen as prejudging the matter is difficult to understand. In the following paragraph we urge the Police to do a thorough investigation and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to undertake e robust prosecution “if it comes to that”; that is should the Police investigation lead to a determination that a crime was committed. Yet again this shows that the Society understands and acknowledges that there is due process that is to be followed.

2.3 The Society encourages persecution of the alleged perpetrator
This statement is not supported by fact. Very clearly, as shown above, the Society is advocating for is the Rule of Law; that the law must take its course. It is advocating for an investigation by the Police followed by a prosecution by the DPP if the results of the investigation support such a prosecution. Not by any stretch of imagination can this be said to be advocating for or encouraging persecution.

2.4 Lawyers’ Petition the President for a Commission of Inquiry

The Lawyers who petitioned His Excellency did so on their own and not in a representative capacity. Nowhere have they stated or even implied that they represent the Law Society of Botswana or the broader community of lawyers. However having said that, the Society supports and will protect their right to express their views on the subject. To say that their actions were intended to gain political mileage is again without merit and simply disingenuous as this matter is not political. That the Sebina saga has raised a matter of national concern is agreed by everyone, with very few exceptions. Mr. Dintwe states in his article that the lawyers who he accuses of seeking political mileage will charge the Law Society exorbitant fees for acting for it in litigation. It is never a good thing for one to speak publicly on things they know nothing or very little about. This tends to expose the extent to which they are challenged in that area and to also embarrass their principals. Legal practitioners who undertake litigation for the Society in public interest cases do so on a pro bono basis, that is on a voluntary basis and therefore do not charge the Society any legal fees. This information is known and has been shared with the public in various statements by the Society.

2.5 Did the Council exhaust member consultation processes?
The Council of the Law Society of Botswana is elected by members every two years. In terms of the Legal Practitioners Act, except where expressly provided, Council may exercise of the powers of the Society. For the foregoing reason, the issuance of a statement expressing abhorrence of sexual abuse of children and demanding action against perpetrators does not require any member consultation. In addition and more importantly, no consultation is required because there is no doubt that all self-respecting members of the Law Society, abhor, detest and unashamedly speak out against sexual abuse of children.

2.6 The Law Society has failed to uphold the Constitution
This allegation is without foundation and is not supported by facts. The record of the Society in protection of the Constitution is there for all to see. The various attorneys that Mr. Dintwe calls mercenaries spend sleepless nights preparing court documents and researching in order to represent the Law Society in litigation intended to protect the Constitution for no fee. In the past week the Society was involved in an application to protect the Constitutional Right to assemble and associate and to freedom of expression. Where was Mr. Dintwe and his ilk?

3. The Law Society is surprised at this unwarranted attack by Mr. Dintwe and hopes that the BDP will disassociate itself from this article and confirm as we like to believe that Mr. Dintwe was on a frolic of his own.

4. Finally we inform Mr. Dintwe and his handlers that members of the Law Society know the process to be followed if they are not satisfied with the performance of Council and there are no indications that they are not. Mr. Dintwe not being a member of the Law Society is unlikely to know this hence he is groping in the dark and clutching at straws.

5. Issued pursuant to a Resolution of the Council of the Law Society of Botswana.
Issued By: Council
Law Society of Botswana
At Gaborone, Botswana on 23rd May 2016.