In the wake of defilement charges laid against Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MP for Nata-Gweta Paulson Majaga, human rights group Women Against Rape (WAR) has called on the government to expedite introduction of a sex offenders and paedophiles register.
Majaga was on Monday arraigned before the Nata Magistrate’s Court accused for defiling a 16 years old young girl at Malelekwe cattle post in the Central District of Botswana on dates between September 2019 and May 2020. The BDP has acceded to calls from several civil society organisations and different political parties for the outspoken legislature to be suspended. The party has since suspended Majaga for a period of 60 days pending investigations and/or disciplinary proceedings in light of charges laid against him.
“As a party that respects and upholds the rule of law, the BDP will allow Hon Majaga to deal with the charges without prejudice and allow for completion of due process of the law,” BDP said in a statement released on Friday.
The Maun based human rights organization which primarily supports women and children who experience abuse of all forms also calls for law enforcers and the judiciary to be allowed to independently deal with the case without some sort of any political interference or whatsoever that may prejudice its judgement. Speaking in an interview, WAR Coordinator Peggy Ramaphane said they are concerned about the tendency whereby criminal cases involving public figures are sometimes tempered with and the general public end up not knowing as to what happened to such cases. She pleaded for the law to take its due course on the matter and Majaga be convicted if found guilty, if acquitted the reasons for his acquittal should be publicly explained.
“Our wish is for the whole truth in this matter to be revealed without concealing anything. We should not hear stories from those handling investigations that samples have been lost. The court should also take appropriate decision on the matter so that the general public can have faith in our justice system,” Ramaphane urged.
The organisation has also complained about the continued delay in implementation of the Children’s act provision which calls for the registration of child sexual offenders. The act calls for repeat offenders to be placed on an offenders’ register and barred from further contact with minors. The ruling party has pledged in their 2019 manifesto to strengthen laws against sex offenders and to implement a sex offenders and paedophile register for public scrutiny as a deterrent to repeat offenders. In a recent statement the party’s Secretary General, Mpho Balopi said the BDP remains committed to deliver on their manifesto promises and to uphold social protection of the vulnerable sections of the society.
Ramaphane has however decried that cases of paedophiles in the country are worrisome calling for urgent legal interventions. Civil Societies have also expressed deep concern over the escalating rape and defilement cases; particularly during the current lockdown, as reported by police. “We have been waiting for implementation of the register for almost 10 years now and this is one of the reasons why people continue to violate and abuse children because there is no deterrent,” Ramaphane complained.
Furthermore the organisation has also expressed serious concern about the issue of suspected sexual offenders being granted bail. After spending a weekend in police custody Majaga was granted bail by the presiding Magistrate and is expected to appear again on the 28th of July this year.
WAR is pleading for cases such as defilement, rape and any other forms of violence against women and children to be granted special courts to urgently deal with them. The organisation suggest that prosecution for such cases should at least last for a period of three months while suspects remains in custody until the matter is finalized. WAR is against the current set-up where such cases drag on for over two years before they are completed.
Secretary for Justice in the Ministry of Defence and Security, Dimpho Mogami has revealed that the final bill of the register is currently being drafted by office of the Attorney General. In an interview with this publication Mogami said they are hopeful that the bill will be presented in the July session of parliament if everything goes according to plan at the AG.
“After the Attorney General gave us the bill last year we went back to consult with relevant stakeholders comprising of Dikgosi who made some recommendations. On the basis of the feedback we got from them we then went back to the Attorney General to include their input on the draft,” Mogami indicated.
Explaining the delay on implementation of the register Mogami noted that government want to make sure that the process on how the register will be used will protects vulnerable victims. “We want to be careful on this bill because we may over legislate something and end up exposing the children that we however intended to protect.”