Posts filed under 'Botswana'

2003: Lehlohonolo Bernard Kobedi

4 comments July 18th, 2013 Headsman

Ten years ago today, Botswana controversially hanged a South African national named Lehlohonolo Bernard Kobedi.

Kobedi was one of three men in a vehicle whose shootout with pursuing police left Sergeant Kebotsetswe Goepamang dead in the village of Palapye in 1993; despite insisting that the lethal bullet was not his, Kobedi was condemned for the homicide.

He resided thereafter on death row in relative obscurity. He was there in December 1999 when white South African emigre Mariette Bosch was sentenced to die, and he was still there 16 months later when she hanged. Bosch’s high-profile case, to hear Kobedi’s lawyer explain it, cast a pall over her client.

“I think it was at that very moment he started feeling that execution was a reality,” Themba Joina* told South African press. “You can imagine what he went through on realising that even international pressure and threats could not save Bosch.”

Kobedi would not enjoy such publicity. “The foreign media were only concerned about Bosch because she is white. Since she was hanged, we don’t see cameras in Botswana anymore,” Joina said.

Even so, he fought zealously for his client. Supported by the Botswana human rights organization DITSHWANELO, Joina mounted (pdf) both a claim of Kobedi’s actual innocence and a challenge to the constitutionality of Botswana’s death penalty. The country’s high court turned him down early in 2003.

It must have been a terrible ordeal for Kobedi. Packed four to a cell, and bracing every morning for the prospect of a sudden execution, the South African was finally put to death in secrecy the morning of July 18, 2003.

“I got cold. I had no hope at all,” one of his cellmates remembered of the hanging-day. But it’s a narrow space between life and death, and this fellow with only one frightening degree of separation from the gallows was the very next week cleared of his charges and released.

* Joina also happens to preside over a Marxist political party.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Botswana,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder

2010: Modise Mokwadi Fly, Botswana pol

1 comment March 24th, 2012 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 2010, reggae artist, politician, activist and convicted child killer Modise Mokwadi Fly was hanged in Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone.

He was the second person to be executed under the administration of President Ian Khama; the first was also a child killer.

Fly, a South African national, had been general secretary of the Botswana Congress Party Youth League. On November 27, 2006, he killed his two-year-old son, Tawana Mosinyi, with an ax while the toddler slept. Fly maintained until his death that Tawana’s death was accidental and he’d actually been trying to throw his ax at the police who were firing shots at his house from outside. The prosecution believed Fly deliberately killed his son to spite the child’s mother, whom he’d recently quarreled with.

After his conviction on October 17, 2008, Fly apologized to Tawana’s family for his death. He sentenced to hang five days later, then he waited a year and a half for his date with death. Witnesses reported he seemed oddly cheerful and gregarious in court, smiling and chatting amiably with his friends and relatives who attended the trial.

In February 2010, the month before his execution, Fly made an attempt to escape from prison. He was the first prisoner to succeed in escaping from Botswana’s death row — but he was only free for fifteen minutes. After his capture, it was alleged, he was brutally beaten by the guards and then placed in solitary confinement so no one could see his injuries.

If the prison did in fact do this, it didn’t work: the news of the alleged mistreatment became public on March 23. Whether the timing had anything to do with his secretive execution the next day is unclear. Predictably, Botswana’s Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation denied that the prisoner had been abused or placed in isolation.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Activists,Artists,Botswana,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,History,Murder,Other Voices,Politicians,Ripped from the Headlines

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2001: Mariette Bosch, love triangulator

1 comment March 31st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2001, Botswana secretly hanged creepy South African emigre Mariette Bosch for whacking her neighbor in order to steal the neighbor’s husband.

That the black widow was actually white only threw the lurid scenario into sharper relief. In the well-heeled enclaves of Gaborone, one Ria Wolmarans was found shot dead in 1996, and inside a month her former husband Tienie Wolmarans had moved in with Mariette Bosch.

The big break in the case came from Mariette’s sister Judith, to whom the murderess had unguardedly confided her love for Tienie prior to the shooting. (The lovebirds’ official story was that their loins only heated up as Ria Wolmarans’ body cooled.) Judith got ahold of the 9mm Mariette had borrowed and handed over to the police what proved to be the murder weapon.

Although the courts found Mariette’s erratic defense — something about hypnotism and her victim’s boss — absurdly implausible, her elite status helped make her the lightning rod for capital punishment in Botswana.

The international attention she attracted, however, simultaneously pressured the government to close the books with a very speedy hanging.

Bosch was hanged at 6 a.m. this date upon 24 hours’ notice to herself and none whatsoever to the outside world: Tienie — who always avowed disbelief that Bosch killed his wife — was turned away from the prison on what he figured was a routine visit the previous day, and found out about Bosch’s execution with the rest of the country when it hit the news two days later. Bosch had to go her last day on earth alone.

Although it remains an emblematic case, Bosch’s disposal hasn’t exactly changed Botswana’s hanging protocol: brief appeals process, executions in secrecy, scant prospect of clemency. The country’s politicians make no apologies about it, notwithstanding the high-profile work of its domestic human rights organization Ditshwanelo. (Here’s its statement on Bosch.)

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Botswana,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Sex,Women

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