Murderess Mariette Bosch
executed in Botswana
By Vivian Warby -
April 2, 2001
South African Mariette
Bosch is dead.
Despite months of
petitioning by Bosch's husband, Tienie Wolmarans, and
sympathisers, clemency was denied by the Botswana government.
Wolmarans was also
apparantly denied access to Bosch before she was hanged in the
early hours of Saturday morning. She is the first South African to
be executed in Botswana.
Details of her execution
remained sketchy on Monday.
At the weekend,
Botswana's President Festus Mogae said in London that he would not
consider granting Bosch clemency.
This morning, Joe
Orebotse, speaking on behalf of Botswana's prisons commissioner,
confirmed Bosch had been hanged. He said no relatives were allowed
at the hanging. Earlier he had told The Star that a hangman,
prison officials, medical officer and a religious minister would
be present at the execution.
When The Star contacted
the family of Wolmarans and Bosch this morning they declined to
speak to the press and said they should rather contact her legal
representative in the UK, who could not be reached.
Wolmarans himself could
also not be reached, despite numerous calls to his home telephone
One of the bitter ironies
was that South Africa, under
President Thabo Mbeki's
office, was going to launch a petition today to get her death
sentence overturned. Neither Wolmarans nor Bosch herself expected
The 50-year-old South
African woman had hoped her death sentence would be overturned.
But a few months ago an appeal court in Botswana upheld the death
sentence imposed on Bosch for killing Ria Wolmarans, Tienie's
Since the start of her
trial in 1996 Wolmarans, both sets of children and Bosch herself
have proclaimed her innocence.
Bosch spent her last days
and nights alone in her death row single cell in Botswana,
Gaborone's Central Prison, under the menacing shadow of death.
There death row inmates
do not work or do chores.
They tend to themselves
and are left to occupy themselves throughout the day and night.
Not even a request for a
last meal of their most favoured foods is allowed in Botswana. No
sedative is given to the person before he or she is hanged.
Wolmarans could not be
reached this morning and it is not known about his and Bosch's
last meeting before she was executed, although Orebotse said that
she had not been allowed any visits from relatives before her
He also said the name of
the hangman could not be released and he could also not give out
the location of the execution.
His son-in-law said that
the family was not speaking to the press and that all queries
should be forwarded to London to Bosch's advocate.
The court had earlier
found that Bosch had killed Ria Wolmarans. The mother of three was
shot twice, once in the side and once in the chest in 1996.
The court found that
Bosch had scaled a 2m wall, entered Wolmarans' house and
confronted Ria in the passageway where she shot and killed her.
Three months later she became engaged to Wolmarans.
As recently as a month
ago Wolmarans launched his own investigation to prove Bosch's
Her death sentence caused
an outcry from international and South African human rights groups
who called for Bosch to be spared the gallows.
April 2, 2001
A South African woman found guilty of a
love-triangle murder in Botswana has been executed.
Mariette Bosch was hanged on Saturday two
months after her appeal against the death sentence failed.
She spent a year on death row maintaining her
innocence after a court found her guilty of murdering her best
friend Ria Wolmerans, whose husband she later married.
A panel of Commonwealth judges
heard her appeal but decided she did not have a case.
Bosch's last hope was for President Festus
Mogae to grant clemency but he made it clear that he was not going
State radio announced on Monday that Bosch had
been executed at Gaborone's Central Maximum Prison on Saturday
Commissioner of prisons Joseph Orebotse said no
family members had been present at the hanging, as is customary in
In the long-running trial Bosch was revealed as
a manipulative murderess, who planned the death of her best friend
so that she could go on to marry the woman's husband.
The appeal judges said that Bosch had concocted
an incredible and implausible story in an attempt to convince them
of her innocence.
Bosch is the first white person and the fourth
woman to be hanged in Botswana since independence.
The case attracted international attention and
was dubbed "Botswana's white mischief" after the famous book about
love betrayal in colonial Kenya.
During the appeal a leading British barrister,
who has a high reputation for getting death sentences overturned,
argued that Bosch was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Love, loot, lust and loathing
It was, she thought, the perfect crime of
passion. Instead Mariette Bosch is facing a death sentence in
Botswana - and if she loses her appeal next week, she will hang.
Chris McGreal reports
January 23, 2001
It might well have been the perfect crime of
passion. Certainly the setting was right; a tight-lipped, highly
privileged enclave of white South Africans living by its own rules
on the fringes of an African city. When the police discovered
Maria Wolmarans - Ria to her friends - shot dead in the hallway of
her home in Botswana nearly four years ago, they had not the
faintest idea who committed the murder. For months, detectives in
the capital Gaborone believed she was the victim of a botched
The white community was silent. Where fingers
were pointed at all, they were at the maid. But one of their
number, Mariette Bosch, had unwittingly laid the ground for a date
with the gallows even before she murdered her best friend so she
could marry the woman's husband. And while there were not many in
the white community who would have turned her in to the police,
Bosch had not counted on the antagonism of a close female
Next week, the appeal court will rule whether
the 50-year-old mother of three is to become the first woman to
hang in Botswana in three decades, for a killing prosecutors
characterised as embracing the four Ls of murder - love, loot,
lust and loathing.
Bosch and her first husband moved to Botswana
nine years ago, attracted by its booming, diamond-driven economy
and low crime rate. They settled in Phakalane, an area of the
capital so popular with well-off white South Africans that it's
known as "Little Sandton" after a plush Johannesburg suburb.
Some of the women work but most live the life
of the old South Africa, attended by maids and "garden boys".
Their days are filled with bridge clubs and casinos, and weekends
with their husbands at game lodges and golf courses. The second
car in the garage is as often as not a BMW, but four-wheel drives
are increasingly popular for exploring Botswana's stunning
Bosch slotted in easily. She grew up the
daughter of a wealthy liquor store owner and knew all about
spending money in the sprawling shopping malls that are a second
home to so many white South African women. Before long she was
part of Botswana's high society and a regular attendant at the
Dutch Reformed Church in Gaborone. Other members of the
congregation would later pay her bail.
The Boschs became friends with Maria and Tienie
Wolmarans. The women took classes together in decorating porcelain
dolls and made "the most decadent cakes". But within months of
Mariette Bosch's husband being killed in a car crash in 1995, she
had begun an affair with Tienie. The pair drove to a Johannesburg
motel and had what was described in court as "good sexual
The Wolmarans' marriage was already under
strain. They had separated in 1993 and got back together the
following year, but the problems were not resolved.
Tienie promised to divorce his wife, but Bosch
grew impatient. In June 1996, she drove to Pietersburg in South
Africa and borrowed a pistol from a friend. The next day, she
smuggled the gun across the border into Botswana. That night, she
drove two blocks to the Wolmarans' house, climbed a six-foot wall
and walked in. She met her victim in the hall and fired twice,
hitting Maria Wolmarans in the stomach and ribs. There were no
For three months, the Gaborone police did not
identify a single suspect. They put the killing down to a failed
burglary and forgot about it. Bosch must have thought she had
committed the perfect crime - but she had made a series of crucial
errors and failed to take into account the loathing of a close
Before the killing, Bosch had confessed her
love for Tienie Wolmarans to her sister-in-law, Judith Bosch - a
woman who made no secret of her deep dislike of Mariette. Why
Bosch did that remains a mystery, but it was a decision that was
to cost her dear.
After the killing, and without much
explanation, Bosch gave the gun to Judith's husband to look after.
Three months later, she ordered a wedding dress from a designer in
Pretoria. When Judith found out about the weapon and the dress,
and recalled her sister-in-law's earlier revelation, she drew her
own conclusion and took the gun to the police.
Pulled in for questioning, Tienie Wolmarans
blurted out to detectives: "I pray the gun and cartridges don't
match." They did. Undeterred by the fact that Bosch was charged
with the murder of his first wife, he married her.
In Lobatse prison, Bosch refused to eat the
staple diet of tripe. She grew thin and drawn, but still managed
to arrive in court each day with her blue eyeshadow carefully
The trial was at times bizarre. One of the main
defence witnesses was a psychologist, Dr Louise Olivier, who
turned up looking like Barbara Cartland, in pink suit and big
hair, and was revealed to be the sex doctor for a popular
magazine. "Let's suppose you were my wife - ha, ha, ha - and I
knew you were going around with some guy," the judge asked her.
"Then suppose I go to Pretoria to get a gun, come back and shoot
you - wouldn't you call that premeditation?"
Olivier had to confess she would. Her testimony
ended with a loud bang from the witness box and a grovelling
apology. The judge provoked much laughter when he replied: "Don't
be sorry. It's only the bible you dropped!"
Bosch's family were horrified at the circus
atmosphere. Her 14-year-old daughter, Sune, wept in court.
Yet even after her conviction, Bosch imagined
she would walk free. "I believe that God will deliver me from this
nightmare," she said. "I have been framed. People have turned
against me, but God will not."
As she awaited sentence, her neighbour,
Stafanje Hugo, said: "Poor thing. She's convinced they'll let her
go. Tienie asked me to tell her everything would be OK, like she
thinks. But I couldn't do that to my friend."
The only visible reaction from Bosch as she was
sentenced to hang was her fingernails digging into her arm. Her
daughter Charmaine, 25, crouched on the floor and shook.
There are those who believe Bosch should not
face the hangman alone. In handing down his guilty verdict, the
judge also implicated Wolmarans. "I find that the accused and
Tienie were seriously in love before the death of the deceased and
that they wanted the deceased out of Tienie's way for them to get
married," he said.
The police investigated the possibility that
Tienie Wolmarans had a hand in his wife's murder but he has never
been charged. "The police already arrested me on that suspicion,
but I was released after one night because they had no evidence,"
Last week, Bosch appealed. She was represented
by a British barrister, Desmond da Silva, who has so far won
reprieves from the executioner for 35 people. He worked to
persuade judges from Britain and Africa - who sit as Botswana's
appeal court under its post-colonial judicial system - that the
state had wrongly failed to reveal to the defence that it had
granted immunity from prosecution to a leading suspect in the
murder in return for agreeing to testify against Bosch.
If the conviction stands, the death penalty is
mandatory for murder in Botswana unless there are extenuating
circumstances. The judge who sentenced Bosch a year ago, Isaac
Aboagye, said he could find none. "The crime was carefully planned
with the motive of enabling you to take over the husband of the
deceased," he said. "I have not been able to find one moral
extenuating circumstance. You are not very young, you were not
intoxicated and you were not provoked."
If her appeal is refused next week, Bosch's
only hope of avoiding the gallows is clemency. Of the 14 people
sentenced to death in Botswana over the past decade, six have been
hanged and six others have had their sentences commuted. The
remaining two are Bosch and another South African, a man convicted
of killing a policeman.
But the Botswana government might just want to
make the point that citizens of its large neighbour to the south -
white and black - cannot turn the quiet suburbs of Gaborone into
the Johannesburg they moved to escape.
Mariette Bosch -
The Love Triangle Murder
Mariette Sonjaleen Bosch was the first white
woman to be hanged in the southern African state of Botswana and
the only white woman to be hanged in Africa for many years. She is
the fourth woman to be executed in Botswana since independence
from Britain in 1966 and went to the gallows on the 31st of March
Unlike most of the women
in these pages she was middle class and wealthy. Mariette was a
tall, blonde, 50 year old mother of three who had come to Botswana
from Pietersburg in South Africa and was a regular member of the
Dutch Reformed Church.
She and her first husband
Justin, moved to Botswana in 1992, attracted by its booming
economy and low crime rate. They bought a house in Phakalane, a
wealthy area of the capital, Gaborone, which was popular with well
off South Africans. Here they could afford to have a maid and a
garden boy. Mariette's days were filled with shopping, playing
bridge and visiting casinos, with weekends with her husband at
game lodges and golf courses. She and Justin met and became
friends with Maria (normally known as Ria) and Tienie Wolmarans,
who lived nearby.
Justin was tragically
killed in a car crash in 1995 and Ria Wolmarans comforted and
helped Mariette through this difficult period. They used to bake
cakes together, share the school run and even go on holiday
together. At the time, however, Ria and Tienie's marriage was
going through a very difficult time and it is alleged that he and
Mariette had begun a passionate affair five months after Justin's
death. Tienie tried to reconcile the situation with Ria and got
her a job as financial director of a concrete company whose
managing director was Mr. Hennie Coetzee.
Ria Wolmarans was home
alone on the night of June 26th 1996 as Tienie was working away at
the time. She almost certainly knew the person that killed her and
probably let them in voluntarily as there was no sign of forced
entry. She had been making a cup of tea when she was shot and the
tea tray and its contents were found beside her body. Two 9mm
bullets had been fired at her. She was found by her daughter,
Maryna, later that evening. It looked like a burglary that had
gone tragically wrong.
Police initially had no
clues to the killing, and made no arrests for three months.
Tienie and Mariette rented
a house a month after Ria's death and according to them, their
relationship only became serious about two months later. In
September 1996, 3 months after the murder, they had secretly got
engaged and told the families that they were going to South Africa
to shop for wedding outfits.
Arrest and trial.
In early June 1996,
Mariette had borrowed a 9mm Browning pistol from a friend in South
Africa who had been looking after her late husband's firearm
collection, on the basis that she wanted to do some target
shooting. Bringing a firearm into Botswana was a criminal offence
Mariette made two mistakes
that were to provide crucial evidence against her. She had told
Judith Bosch, her sister-in-law who still lived in South Africa,
that she was in love with Tienie and that they wanted to marry.
She also gave the gun to Judith's husband after the murder.
Judith Bosch remembered a
phone call she received from a friend on the morning after the
murder, informing her of Ria's death. She asked the friend about
the murder weapon and was told that it was a 9mm automatic pistol.
The friend who was looking after the family's firearm collection
had earlier told Judith that Mariette had wanted to borrow one of
the guns. When Judith found out about the killing and the weapon
used she persuaded Mariette to return the weapon to her. Judith
Bosch then handed the gun over to the police. Forensic tests
showed that the gun they recovered was the murder weapon and they
arrested Mariette and Tienie on October 7th 1996. Tienie had a
solid alibi for the night of the murder as he could prove that he
had been working away.
For three months after her
arrest, Mariette refused to talk to the police about the gun and
could not even give Tienie a cohesive reason for bringing the gun
into Botswana. Eventually she made the statement naming Hennie
Coetzee as the person she had brought the gun in for.
Mariette was granted bail
after ten months in custody and came to trial 18 months after the
murder. She and Tienie got married in 1998 while Mariette was on
Her trial opened in
December 1999 at Botswana's Lobatse High Court before Justice
Isaac Aboagye. As is normal in Africa there is no jury and the
judge has to find the verdict.
According to the
prosecution it was Mariette who had climbed over the wall into the
Wolmarans's garden, entered the house and shot Maria. Mariette
claimed to be over weight at the time of the killing and therefore
could not have scaled the garden wall. This was rejected by the
court on the basis that she could have had a set of keys.
Much of the more damning
evidence against her came from her sister-in-law, Judith regarding
the gun and the affair.
borrowing the gun from a friend, but claims she did so after being
hypnotised by Hennie Coetzee, Maria's former boss. She accused him
of being the killer which he denied. It was suggested that Hennie
had put some sort of drug into some wine that he and Mariette were
drinking and that he then told her to get the gun and bring it to
him but not to mention it to anyone. Hennie's alleged motive was
that Ria had uncovered financial irregularities in his company and
that these would be revealed at a forthcoming audit.
For the defence it was
pointed out that there was no direct forensic evidence linking
Mariette to the murder - there were no finger prints on the gun
nor in Ria's home. It was also suggested by their expert witness,
psychiatrist Dr Louise Olivier that Mariette did not have a
killer's profile and could not lie. This was dismissed by Justice
Aboagye as of no consequence to the defence.
Mariette's alibi was that
she had been at home all evening and this was verified by her
daughters but rebutted by her maid who said that Mariette had gone
out around 8.00 p.m.
There was, thus, a strong
circumstantial case against Mariette, with no dispute about the
fact that she brought the murder weapon into the country, a strong
probability that she and Tienie were having an affair before Ria
was killed, a disputed alibi for the night of the crime and a very
clear motive. On the other hand her defence was, to put it mildly,
rather fanciful. Not surprisingly therefore on the 21st of
February 2000 the judge found her guilty and rejected any claim
that she had acted under the influence of another (which would
have allowed him to pass the alternative sentence of life in
He said it would be
difficult to find a crime more devoid of anything that could
reduce blameworthiness of the accused person.
"I have searched the trial
records to find anything, however minute, to reduce your
blameworthiness," he told her. "I have not been able to find
anything. The crime was carefully planned with the motive of
enabling you to take over the husband of the deceased. It was
committed with no mercy for the innocent victim. You desired to
eliminate the deceased in order to be able to marry her husband. I
have no doubt the crime was premeditated." It took 30-minutes for
Justice Isaac Aboagye to deliver his full judgement and at the end
asked Mariette if she had anything to say before she was
She replied: "I am not
guilty, you are My Lord, sentencing a woman for something she did
not do." He then adjourned the court for five minutes before
returning to pass sentence on her. The court rose and donning the
black cap, he told her: "You will be returned to prison and there
be hanged by the neck until you are dead. Your body will be buried
in such a place as the State President may determine. May the Lord
have mercy on your soul."
Her older daughter
Charmaine, 20, was stunned by the verdict and sentence and had to
be comforted by relatives while her younger daughter, 14 year old
Soné, tried to chase after her mother as she was led from the
court under guard, but was not allowed contact.
Mariette was taken back to
Gaborone Central Prison and placed in solitary confinement on
death row to await her appeal.
Although Mariette had been
given the death sentence it was not felt by Tienie and her family
that it would ever be carried out as they expected to win on
appeal. Tienie maintained the allegations against Hennie Coetzee
although no evidence was found of the supposed financial
irregularities at the subsequent audit.
In a provision put in
place when Botswana became independent in from Britain 1966, gave
condemned prisoners the right of appeal to the Botswana Appeals
Court which comprises judges from England, Scotland, South Africa,
Zimbabwe and Nigeria. The members of the Appeal Court, which sits
twice a year in January and July of each year, included Judge
President Timothy Aguda from Nigeria, Sir John Blofeld from
England and Lord Weir from Scotland.
Accompanied by 15 members
of the Botswana prison guard and police force, Mariette, who had
turned 50 the week before, entered the packed court promptly at
9.30am. on the morning of the 18th of January. She blew a discreet
kiss towards Tienie Wolmarans and sat down to listen to the
proceedings. The year Mariette had spent on death row had taken a
considerable toll on her, she looked gaunt and had aged
considerably. She was wearing a lilac blouse which appeared too
big for her, a little make up and had hair in a ponytail.
The case against Mariette
was presented by Botswana's assistant Attorney General, Lizo
Ngcongo. He told the court "We are talking about a woman who
decided in advance that the deceased was an obstacle to her
amorous relationship with Tienie Wolmarans and would have to be
got rid of."
Ngcongo said Mariette and
her daughter Charmaine had contradicted themselves in testimony
during her trial and this proved that the High Court had been
right in finding her guilty. "This (the contradictions) affected
the plausibility of the entire defence."
He also said that Mariette
had lied about her alibi on the night of Wolmarans' murder.
Ngcongo said she claimed
to have been at home, but that this had been denied by her maid.
Furthermore, he said, Mariette had told the court that she had
left the murder weapon at a police post on the South African side
of the border and then later said she had given the weapon to
state witness Hennie Coetzee. Neither of which statements were
For her defence top London
barrister, Desmond da Silva argued that the trial was flawed
because Hennie Coetzee was given immunity for testifying against
Mariette without the court or defence being informed.
"The witness had demanded
and got an immunity which did not even specify he had to tell the
truth as far as I can see," he said. "It is astonishing."
Evidence that Mariette had
a dependant and vulnerable personality and was easily suggestible
was presented at the appeal. The crucial point was who, if
anybody, influenced Mariette to commit the crime. Was it Hennie
Coetzee or Tienie or someone else? We shall never know the answer
to this or indeed to who actually fired the fatal shots.
On the 29th of January the
Appeal Court gave its judgement which lasted for nearly two hours.
Acting Judge President Timothy Aguda told the court that "She is a
wicked and despicable woman. The murder had been planned over a
long period, no doubt as a result of jealousy and infatuation. It
involved travelling to South Africa where she collected a gun and
she illegally brought it into the country."
The appeal was thus
denied. Mariette was visibly shocked when the three Appeal Court
judges delivered their ruling. Tienie Wolmarans, was too upset to
speak and admitted that there was little hope of a reprieve.
After the appeal was
dismissed her lawyer, Edward Fashole Luke II, began preparing an
appeal for clemency for Mariette. Where the death sentence is
upheld on appeal, the case is considered by the Advisory Committee
on the Prerogative of Mercy, which advises the president on the
exercise of his prerogative. The president of Botswana, Festus
Mogae, said, while on a visit to London on March 29th, that he
would not consider granting Mariette clemency however. It was
therefore up to Botswana's commissioner of prisons, Joseph
Orebotse to arrange for the sentence to be carried out. It was to
be the first hanging there since that of five men in August 1995
Mariette spent her days on
death row wearing a brown prison dress, in a single cell with just
a mattress and a bucket. The standard prison food included tripe
and morogo. She is reported to have had nightmares about standing
on the gallows while strangers around her whispered in a language
she could not understand.
On Friday 30th March
Mariette's death warrant was read to her and she was informed that
her execution would take place in the early hours of Saturday. She
was not permitted any visitors or to say good bye to her family
nor was she allowed a special last meal. She was apparently
counselled, wrote letters to Tienie and her children and prayed.
Sedatives are not offered to condemned prisoners, as was also the
case in Britain.
A minister of the church,
the prison doctor and prison officials witnessed the hanging which
was carried out British style at 6.00 a.m. that morning.
Executions in Botswana are carried out in complete secrecy (just
as they were in Britain) and no details whatsoever are released
and no advance warning of an execution is normally given. After
death her body was buried in the prison cemetery.
Tienie Wolmarans had made
an appointment three weeks previously to visit Mariette on the
Friday. This appointment had been confirmed by the prison
officials but when he phoned them on the Friday morning he was
told by a senior official that they were busy with an inspection
and that all visitors for the day had been postponed. Instead he
was told to come back on the following Monday. This he and her
daughters did and were met by prison officials, including the
assistant district commissioner, who told them that Mariette had
been hanged on Saturday. He, and their daughters Soné and
Charmaine broke down completely at this news. Fifteen minutes
later prison guards gave them Mariette's personal belongings and
told them to leave.
On the Monday when the
execution was announced, Botswana's permanent secretary at the
ministry of foreign affairs, Ernest Mpofu, said that the law did
not provide for a condemned person to be allowed a last visit by
his or her family before the execution.
"Partly because of the
controversy this particular case was generating, he (the
commissioner) used his judgement. It would not be in their
interest to bring in the family."
He also told reporters
that "there were allegations that the South African government was
going to send a formal note asking for clemency, but we did not
receive anything". "There was nothing in writing. If he phoned the
president, I'm not aware of it." Neither South Africa nor any
foreign government had officially protested against the execution.
Once the president had refused clemency, it was up to the
commissioner of prisons to make the necessary arrangements for the
hanging, without consulting further."
When Tienie was refused
access to Mariette on the Friday he had contacted Anne Schofield,
his British lawyer, who was still working on the documents needed
to make an application to Botswana's clemency commission for a
stay of execution. The documents were nearly completed, and were
expected to be ready to fax through to Wolmarans's lawyers in
Gaborone on Monday morning. Whether they would have considered
them is however debatable as they had already reached their
After the execution Tienie
Wolmarans was interviewed by the South African media and
commented: "The manner in which Mariette was executed was totally
and completely indecent. I cannot fathom the reason for it. We had
filed a petition for clemency. It was a preliminary petition in
which we made clear to President Mogae that we needed time to
prepare a full petition. We also told him that we were arranging
for a psychiatrist to evaluate Mariette's state of mind."
"My lawyers did not even
have time to write the report before Mariette was executed," he
said. "We received a letter - myself, Soné, Charmaine and Anton.
It was addressed to us from Mariette. Inside was a short note to
each of us. She had not even been allowed to write it herself. She
had been told to dictate it. She said that they (the prison
authorities) did not want her to see us on Friday."
"I believe that the story
they told us about an inspection was a lie. They will probably
make up anything now. I found out that the pastor who was visiting
her every week was not allowed to see her on Friday. Mariette had
nobody to comfort her, nobody to try and help her, to be with her
in her final hours. She was denied the common decency of being
allowed to talk to a priest. I cannot even begin to imagine what
she must have gone through."
The execution only two
months after Mariette's appeal, is an all-time record for
Botswana, where the time between sentence and execution is
normally from nine months to several years. It is generally
thought to have been carried out so quickly because of the growing
international controversy over the case and increasing pressure
from various human rights groups. Prior notice of executions is
not given to the media.
Botswana has maintained a
1950's version of English law since its independence in 1973 and
the death sentence is mandatory upon conviction for murder. Its
legal system does not recognise degrees of murder.
There is an automatic
right of appeal to a panel of Commonwealth judges who are drawn
from various countries (including Scotland in this case). Once the
appeal has been turned down the final decision for clemency rests
solely with the president, Festus Mogae.
Botswana has hanged 30 men
and 4 women over the 28 years. Clemency is rarely recommended by
the Appeal Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which advises the
President. The death penalty is strongly supported by the
Botswanan population who enjoy a very low murder rate, especially
when compared to neighbouring South Africa which has an appalling
There are several aspects
to Mariette Bosch's case that need to be examined against this
While one may feel that
the death sentence, in her case, was too severe, the local
population in this democratic and strongly religious country
wholeheartedly supported it.
She appears to have had
"due process" - a fair trial and a proper appeal and there are no
allegations that she was in anyway maltreated or forced to confess
to something she hadn't done.
One of the allegations by
the her lawyers and the human rights groups is that she was
executed with indecent haste and there would appear to some truth
in this, in as much as the Botswanan authorities clearly were
expecting further international pressure and protests if they had
announced the execution date in advance.
While one would agree that
to not allow her to say goodbye to her husband and family was
cruel in one sense, it did save them from having to live through
the hours and minutes leading up to her execution and from the
difficult and emotional farewells both of which would surely have
been an enormous emotional strain. It is hard to see any advantage
to Mariette in delaying the execution any further. Her appeal was
heard and turned down in January and the president ruled against
clemency on the Thursday so her death warrant was read to her on
the Friday and the execution was carried out on the Saturday
morning. Surely this is less cruel than making her wait for months
or years and then telling her the execution date 3 months in
advance, as happened to Karla Faye Tucker in Texas. A person in
this position would think of little else once the date had been
set. As it was, Mariette said that she had nightmares about her
execution. It is also far less cruel than making her go through
the setting of an execution date and then granting a stay hours
before it is due and then making her go through the whole process
again and again before finally executing her 10 years later as
happens in America. I doubt that conditions on death row in
Gaborone Central prison are of the sort that most of us would want
to spend too much time in.
Hanging in Botswana
follows the British method so it is probable that she was at least
given a quick death.
Sadly Mariette had no real
defence other than some rather fanciful theories and against the
strong, albeit, circumstantial evidence it was not surprising that
on the balance of probabilities she was found guilty. It is
notable, however, that Ria's family all thought she was innocent.
Her case received huge
publicity in the South African media and also in the press in
other English speaking countries, as capital cases involving white
middle class women are nowadays a rarity.
Should she have been
reprieved? It is difficult to see any real reason why the
president should have reprieved her, or politically, could have
done so. How can it be right to reprieve this prisoner because she
is white while executing others who are black. (Botswana has
hanged three black women.) How would their relatives feel if
Mariette had been reprieved purely because she was white? Inverted
racism may also have played a part in the decision to execute
Mariette because she was a wealthy white living in a black
Whether or not
Mariette deserved death for this murder is a matter of personal
opinion - but let us not forget Ria Wolmerans, did she deserve to
be deceived and abandoned by her husband and to die by shooting
because she was a bar to Mariette's and Tienie's relationship? She
too had human rights.