Mourning a murderer
EXECUTED: Joseph Tselayarona

Executed killer’s family grieve their lost son

In the early hours of Saturday morning, 28-year-old Joseph Tselayarona was executed by the state.

The day before, his sister, unaware that her brother’s life was about to come to a grisly end, had tried to visit him at Gaborone Central Prison but was turned away.

The convicted killer was hanged hours later, becoming the first person to legally hang in Botswana since May 25, 2016, when Patrick ‘Raselepe’ Gabaakanye, 65, suffered the same fate.

This week, The Voice made the short journey to Molelpolole – the scene of Tselayorana’s terrible crimes – to talk to the dead man’s family.

We are met by Tselayorana’s aunt (his late mum’s older sister), 71-year-old Mavis Bakwadi, who welcomes us warmly.

After a brief introduction, Bakwadi points out the room where her nephew murdered his girlfriend, Ngwanyanaotsile Keikanne and her three-year-old son, Miguel Keikanne almost eight years ago.

The room – in a two bedroomed house – is locked and has not been used since the tragedy.

Mourning a murderer

Bakwadi explains she was not around when the bodies were recovered back in 2010.

“I am told that after killing them he put their bodies next to each other on the bed. The bodies were recovered by the Police,” she recalls in a hushed tone.

When asked what Tselayarona was like as a teenager, the old woman pauses for a second before replying, “He was short tempered when he grew up. I mean he never hit his siblings or anything but we could always see that he was short tempered.”

A sombre silence falls as Bakwadi reflects on her own words, lost in thought as she remembers her young relative who would become a killer.

Switching abruptly back to the present, Bakwadi reveals that as the eldest in the family she has not been told by either the authorities or prison officials of Tselayorana’s execution and only knows about it because her niece informed her.

“I got a call that he had been hanged. No one has officially told me anything as the eldest in the family. I then called my brother to the house, as you can see you found me cleaning the yard because I am still waiting for them to come tell me what happened to our son.

“So far we have had people from the village come here for condolences. This is where he grew up at his grandmother’s home, this is where he committed the crime and this is the very place he was staying when he was granted bail, so we are still waiting for the officials to come here,” she concludes with a weary sigh.

Meanwhile, a few kilometers away, another memorial service has been hosted in remembrance of the man the village knows as ‘Poni’.

Bakwadi’s sister, 51-year-old Keogopoleng Batlotlegi decided to hold her own prayer session for Tselayarona.

“I attended every court session; I was a witness at some point. Even in prison I was the only one, as the elder of the family who checked on him, no one else checked on him,” she tells The Voice animatedly.

“We wrote a letter to the Office of President pleading for his pardon. They told us that we should write a letter through our lawyer which we did. Our lawyer about three weeks ago called to tell me he had written the letter, I guess we were not successful as he was killed three weeks later,” continues the visibly distraught woman, who was reading a bible when The Voice arrived and admits that she is struggling to come to terms with her nephew’s death.

Tselayarona was sentenced to death by High Court on March 10, 2017 for Miguel’s murder (he received a 20-year sentence for killing Ngwanyanaotsile). He later appealed the judgment but was dismissed on the November 23, 2017 by the Court of Appeal (CoA).

This week the European Union (EU) issued a statement condemning Tselayarona’s execution stating that the use of capital punishment can never be justified.

“The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment. There is no evidence that it has a better deterrent effect than imprisonment, and judicial and other errors in its application are irrevocable and irreversible, which is why most of the countries in the world have stopped applying it,” the statement read in part.

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