Francistown magistrate court will be swamped by curious onlookers on Tuesday morning when eclectic MP for Tonota, Pono Pearson Patson Moatlhodi appears to face the young boy who fell victim to his vicious attack last year.
Kesego Olekantse (12) will take the stand to tell all and sundry about the horrendous assault occasioned on him by Moatlhodi and his partner in crime, one Nnyana Kebitsang who allegedly capped the act by unleashing a vicious dog on the minor last January.
The child’s major crime was stealing mangoes from Moatlhodi’s yard in Tonota. As a result of the attack by the duo, Olekantse suffered wounds and bruises to the body and face caused by the dog unleashed on him.
The Tuesday tell-all follows an order by Chief Magistrate Faith Dlamini-Ngandu, who has instructed that before the terms of a proposed reconciliation are finalised on September 22, the victim of the assault should take the stand to relay his side of the story as he is above the age of 10. Olenkantse will appear with the assistance of a guardian and a social worker who handled the case.
According to State Prosecutor, Gaone Miller, Moatlhodi – who is the Opposition Whip in Parliament – and Kebitsang have proposed to settle the matter out of court by offering P40 000 compensation as part of a reconciliation process with the victim. The compensation will be paid in instalments for the next three (3) months starting end of September with P15, 000 which will be followed by two monthly payments of P12, 500.
Defense lawyer Martin Maeba confirmed the settlement deal, adding that the first deposit will be ready on Tuesday (September 22) when the accused appear in court for mention.
University of Botswana (UB) social work Lecturer Dr Kgomotso Jongman said the child has suffered trauma and in the long run he will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder which is very challenging to heal. To this end, Dr Jongman believes that compensation would not do anything much to wipe away trauma.
Furthermore, he said the Children’s Act of 2009 has not done anything effective in the long run to prosecute people accused of child abuse because loopholes still exist in the Act. “In Botswana we don’t have any defined robust social welfare model. We have a residual (60%), institutional (35%) and developmental (5%). Developmental is more rhetorical that practical,” he said.
The Botswana Child Rights Network (BCRN); a 30-member national coalition of child service CSOs has expressed concern about what they call “a complete disregard for children’s rights by members of parliament”.
The NGOs asked for Moatlhodi to take leave of absence from Parliament until his matter is fully resolved emphasizing that by abusing the minor, he contravened section 61 of the 2009 Botswana Children’s Act. “We once more call on Parliament to pass a code of conduct that will clearly guide how matters relating to Members criminally charged, especially on issues of gender based violence and violence against children are treated,” BCRN said in a statement.
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Drawing from the suspension of Nata/Gweta MP Polson Majaga by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) stemming from allegations of defilement political observers have been calling on the UDC to suspend Moatlhodi for assault charges on a minor which he has never denied.
On Friday Leader of Opposition (LOO) and vice President of the UDC, Dumelang Saleshando told Parliament that the coalition has suspended Moatlhodi as Opposition Whip to allow him time to clear his name.
Saleshando said the party would not completely remove Moatlhodi from the position as his case is still before the courts. “He remains innocent until the courts find him guilty or not. In the interim, MP for Shoshong Aubrey Lesaso will take over as Opposition Whip, pending the outcome of the court case,” Saleshando said.
However, a University of Botswana political analyst, Mokaloba Mokaloba, said Moatlhodi’s decision to compensate the child as a form of reconciliation is a clear demonstration that he has already admitted quilt.
He said the UDC is constrained and guarded in their response because they do not have the luxury of numbers to fight BDP in Parliament where they need every member.
“Also, Moatlhodi is a senior figure within the UDC and a leader by virtue of being the longest serving and eldest amongst them. Suspending him would hurt them. Not taking severe action against Moatlhodi also paints the UDC in bad light, which the ruling BDP is taking advantage of, exploiting the opportunity,” said Mokaloba.