Saturday November 30 we woke up to horrible news of the assault of One Billion Rising coordinator for Johannesburg, Rosie Motene in Bostwana by one Bissau Gaobakwe. Rosie was in Botswana to support fellow activist and artist BerryHeart at the launch of her Book and to assist in bringing awareness of the One Billion Rising for Justice Campaign which will be coordinated by BerryHeart. According to Rosie herself and media sources in Botswana, she was at a function organised by Absolut Vodka.
“We were chilling at the pool deck! Then all of a sudden this guy comes shouting at David, as I turned around he punched me right in my face! I instantly felt my nose pop!
The people around me told him to apologize he refused! We then went downstairs, told security and management they refused to help as they know who this man is and do not want to get involved. They refused to call the police.” You can read Rosie’s full account of the incident here.
Image from mmegionline
In 2001, Gaobakwe was also involved in a highly publicized case where a South African musician Tokollo Tshabalala was facing two counts of culpable homicide. The story can be found here.
In September 2004, Bissau Gaobakwe was released from prison after serving less than six months for attempted murder. The story can be found here.
Gaobakwe was due to appear before court November 28, 2013 on a traffic related offence. Gaobakwe is alleged to have driven his motor vehicle while unfit to do so due to intoxication. He did not show up in court and the case has been postponed to July 22 where the court is expected to set trial dates. You can read the full report here.
What is clear from the media reports above is that Bissau Gaobakwe is a man accustomed to breaking the law with impunity. To be convicted for attempted murder and then set free after 6 months is shocking. However it seems that the justice system and the police in Botswana are to be found wanting in how they have handled the cases that Gaobakwe has been involved in.
Rosie Motene was assaulted and the police did not show up at the scene of the crime to interview witnesses (of which there were plenty) and to take a statement from the victim. In fact according to her account, the police only showed up to take her statement after the South African high commission got involved in the case, and this only after Rosie Motene herself put out a cry for help on twitter and Face Book.
This begs the following questions: What happens to women of less public prominence who are assaulted, raped and murdered by men with money and power? What becomes of women who have no access to twitter or Face Book through which to put out a call for help in the face of danger?
Rosie’s story illustrates very clearly manner in which injustice is perpetrated by a flawed police force and that those with money and power can buy the silence and therefore the complicity of a corrupt and flawed justice system. Her story also illustrates the power of money to silence the media who have failed to name the perpetrator of a violent crime. There are several online sources that report on what happened to Rosie, but they all fail to name the perpetrator of the crime despite eye witness accounts about who beat Rosie. A law enforcement and justice system that provides cover for the crimes of the wealthy and the powerful is unfair and supports the usurping of the basic human rights of the common citizen as well as the rights of vulnerable groups in the society. There should be no impunity or anonymity for perpetrators of crime regardless of socio economic status, class, education, gender, race, class or sexual orientation. One Billion Rising for Justice seeks to bring to the fore ground the issue of impunity, among other issues.
There have been many tweets and Face Book posts in which people have commented on this case. However it is unfortunate that many people choose to focus on Rosie’s beliefs and personal life, rather than to address the real issue at hand: A violent crime was committed against Rosie and laws in Botswana were broken. The perpetrator at large is Bissau Gaobakwe. These are the basic facts of the case and the rule of law should be administered with impartiality. This is why we rise.
Rosie Motene is a passionate activist working to end violence against women and children and she was in Botswana partly to advance this work. The One billion Rising for Justice activists in the Southern African region and across the world stand with her and call for Justice for her and for all the women who have been unfairly treated by a system that was put in place to protect the rights and liberties of all citizens. The irony is that this assault has taken place during 16 Days of Activism to stop gender-based violence.