Gaborone - The Botswana government has said that the majority of citizens and those from neighbouring countries who are Facebook users support its stance on the death penalty.
The government released an unofficial poll based on reactions to the execution notice of Joseph Tselayakgosi on its Facebook page dubbed BWgovernment.
The government said: “While views in the comments section, which can be easily accessed, were mixed, a clear majority of domestic and regional commentators on the page expressed their support for the death penalty.”
It added: “As of this evening (21 February) the post had reached 1.1 million (1,100,905) people, while generating 34,554 reactions, comments and shares.”
It states that in terms of the 18,366 reactions received, 17,053 (92.9%) consisted of “Likes/Loves”, 3.6% were “Sad”, while just 2% expressed “Anger” at the announcement, with another 3.2% falling under the category of “Haha/Wow”.
“Perhaps more substantially the post generated 11,309 comments, with 6,946 on post and 4,363 on shares. In addition to Botswana, many of the comments came from South Africa and Namibia, followed by other countries,” reads the statement.
Some countries in the region have not banned executions, including Tanzania whose president John Magufuli stated last year that he cannot assent to an execution despite the death penalty being legal
Reports indicate that as Botswana was executing the convict, in West Africa, the Gambia was also taking steps towards abolishing the measure. President Adama Barrow, during the country’s 53rd independence anniversary, placed a moratorium on the death penalty.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, debate is raging on whether the country should retain the death penalty but President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who himself survived the gallows because he was under 18 when he was convicted by the Ian Smith regime for sabotage and derailing a train during the country’s liberation struggle, has made it clear that he is opposed to executions.
After Botswana's last execution before the current, which was exercised on murder convict Jerry Gabaakanye in 2013, the European Union (EU), which is against death penalty, issued a statement condemning Botswana.
Earlier last month President Ian Khama said he supported the death penalty.
In response to the hanging of 28-year-old Joseph Tselayarona for the 2010 murder of his girlfriend and three-year-old son, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa, said: “Joseph’s execution is a step back for Botswana and it shows the government’s contempt for life. The death penalty is an abhorrent punishment and should never be used in any circumstances.”
Muchena said while many countries in the region are moving away from this cruel form of punishment, Botswana is regressing.
“The death penalty has no place in the modern era. Instead of executing people, the government of Botswana should immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing this cruel and inhuman punishment,” he said.
Amnesty International said it opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.
“The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International calls on Botswana to abolish the death penalty for all crimes as have 105 countries in the world,” Muchena said.
In the early morning of Saturday 17 February 2018, the execution of the death penalty passed on Joseph Poni Tselayarona (28) was carried out at Gaborone Central Prison in the capital Gaborone.
The High Court had convicted Tselayarona for the murder of his girlfriend, Ngwanyanaotsile Keikanne, and her three-year-old son, Miguel Keikanne, in 2010 at Molepolole village in southern Botswana.
He was sentenced 20 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend and handed a death penalty for the murder of the son. He later appealed the judgment but was dismissed on 23 November 2017 by the Court of Appeal.