An interesting opinion has been attributed to Brigadier Kgokgothwane. Kgokgothwane who is now a BMD activist has been reported as saying the soldiers who gunned down Kalafatis ‘went through’ his hands and they must have just been performing as ordered. As well, he notes importantly that they are not police officers and their job is to handle guns; kill, I extend. Interestingly he also notes that the soldiers should not even have gone to jail in the first instance and that is why there has never been punitive action from the BDF against the soldiers. I agree with Brigadier Kgokgothwane’s thinking.
In civil military relations one notes that soldiers are not police officers. Their use for civilian policing purposes comes at great risk as they were not trained at home affairs duties. The soldier is a master of death, his role it is to master to kill in the pursuit of his mission. When out in the hunt, the instinct of a soldier is to shoot and kill anything that moves and in his calculation could threaten him. His orientation is in the traditions of to kill or get killed, eat or get eaten.
Given this orientation, what appears to the civilian as a gruesome, greasily and barbaric murder is just another death to the soldier. It is not much, for him people die every day and you as a nation have entrusted him with the responsibility to kill in your defense and on your behalf. Thus when nations go to war and soldiers kill, it is not just the soldiers that are killing but their nation. The soldier is to us what the gun is to him: he is our gun - he kills on our behalf as a population. Thus, the incarceration of soldiers who believed they were after a dangerous fugitive who is reportedly armed may be stretching it a bit. The mere fact that the police force was unable to nail the victim may mean he was more than just another guy on the run and the briefing the soldiers received was as alarming and they had to become cold killing machines to apprehend him. This is more so if it is true that he was ordered out of the vehicle and appeared to be moving his limbs as though to pick a gun. The facts of the case aren’t the matter for now though.
I am actually surprised that there was no outcry from the BDF when the soldiers went to jail. In many other countries there would have been a mutiny, a coup even as a result of this. Batswana must as such learn to treat their servicemen with caution, and respect. The soldier is a professional with a special skill and he must be treated as a special citizen. Exceptions of course will always exist if the soldier is to go on the rampage and do harm to the civilians he is protecting; to innocent civilians.
The big question is whether the president is culpable for the release of the soldiers. Constitutionally there is nothing wrong, illegal or whatever word you use. The president has the power to pardon prisoners. It is his prerogative to do so as and when he pleases. So there is no injustice here? Well, if we see justice from the spirit of the constitution then no there is no injustice. It was not unjust for him to act in this manner. How about morally?
Our moral positions are as many as we are. However, one may say the issue remains arguable. The perspective offered by Kgokgothwane points to all sundry that the soldiers did what most other soldiers would have done. It is as such important that they be treated with the perspective of what any other soldier would have done under the same circumstances in mind. The death of a human being to me and you is sad and bad thing. But what if your job, your training and your psychology is around killing to protect others? Then you would kill to protect others.
Finally, our constitution clearly needs to be reviewed. If the outcry over the Kalafatis guys release is anything to go by, then the presidential pardon may need to be reviewed. Section 53 and 55 may need revisiting if indeed this is not yet another political reaction to issues we must not politicize. As it is, what President Khama did is what I would have done and possibly what Kgokgothwane and many others in the military and elsewhere would have done. Incarcerating individual soldiers will not help solve our problems, especially if they acted in the course of duty and within the confines of the frailties of a human being.