Now, security means a tiny cell in Gaborone Central Prison, where the gaunt, 50-year-old blonde says she is at peace and where she awaits death by hanging for the 1996 murder of Maria "Ria" Wolmarans, one of her closest friends. In the year after the killing, Bosch married Wolmarans' widowerMarthinus, known as Tieniewith whom she had been having a passionate affair since shortly after her own husband's death in a 1995 auto accident. Barring a presidential decree of clemency, Boschwho still maintains she is innocentwould be the first white woman to be executed in Botswana's history.
While some observers detect in her story an echo of British colonial Kenya's decadent White Mischief years (depicted in the 1987 film based on James Fox's book), hers is a decidedly less glamorous version of that early-1940s tale of adultery and murder among the bluebloods. Still, according to Botswanan prosecutors, the Bosch case similarly embraced "the four Ls of murderlove, loot, lust and loathing."
Events surrounding the killing have divided public opinion in the country and mystified local people who knew both families. The minister at the Dutch Reformed Church in Gaborone, the Rev. Arthur Cloete, still finds it hard to understand that Mariette Bosch could have coldly planned and committed the murder of Ria Wolmarans. Before the killing the two familieseach with two daughters and a sonsat in the front pews of the church, Cloete said, the Boschs to the right, the Wolmaranses to the left. "They were close friends," he added. "When Tienie had to go and work up north, Mariette was always around, making sure that Ria and her children were all right."
But in the only view that really matters so farthat of the Commonwealth judges acting last week as Botswana's top Court of AppealBosch's motive was "wicked and despicable" and there are no extenuating circumstances to save her from the mandatory death penalty. "The murder had been planned over a long period, no doubt as a result of jealousy and infatuation," said Judge Timothy Aguda of Nigeria.
For three months after the June 1996 killing, police had no suspects in what they considered a burglary gone tragically awry. But Bosch had made a series of blunders that eventually led to her arrest. She had told her sister-in-law, Juliet Bosch, of her love for Tienie Wolmarans; she had given a gun to Juliet's husband after the murder and, three months later, she ordered a wedding dress. Juliet Bosch put the pieces together and turned the gun over to police, who linked it to 9-mm cartridges found at the murder scene. Wolmarans, who was investigated as a possible accomplice in Ria's death, married Bosch in 1997 and stands by her. "We won't give up hope," he said.
The court rejected Bosch's contention that she had been framed by a South African businessman who she contended had killed Ria to stop her from revealing alleged theft and fraud in a company for which they had worked. The panel upheld the original guilty verdict and the finding of the sentencing judge, who had told Bosch that "the crime was carefully planned with the motive of enabling you to take over the husband of the deceased... You are not very young, you were not intoxicated and you were not provoked." Bosch, the court accepted, brought the gun into Botswana from South Africa, climbed a fence at the Wolmarans house, went in and shot her friend twice.
As Bosch awaits her fate in Gaboroneat a time when African governments are generally moving slowly away from legal executions despite rising crime ratesanother blonde white woman sits in a cell in Tanzania's Arusha Prison. Kerstin Cameron, a 40-year-old German national who has lived most of her life in Africa, is charged with the 1998 murder of her estranged husband Cliff. For her, too, conviction could mean death by hanging.
Cameron was initially told she had no legal case to answer, and the death was ruled a suicide. But pressure from her husband's New Zealand relatives dramatically altered events, and she was arrested last May. The inquiry into the death of Cliff, a 42-year-old bush pilot, is now laden with African bureaucratic inefficiency, post-colonial sensitivities and murky suspicions.
Kerstin Cameron's legal troubles began on July 4, 1998, when her husband left an Arusha hotel in which he had been drinking heavily and went to visit her and their two young children at their home. A few hours later, he was dead in her bedroom, a bullet in his head. The Tanzanian police twice investigated and twice concluded that Cameron had committed suicide. Two employees of his air-charter company told police he had threatened, in the hours before his death, to blow his brains out. A coroner's report listed suicide as the cause of death. In addition, say Kerstin Cameron's supporters, the judge at a pre-trial hearing last December told the defense that he had read the case file four times and saw nothing to support a murder charge. The prosecution acknowledges that the remark was made, say German embassy officials in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's main city. Nevertheless, prosecutors insisted on forging ahead. Cameron is due to face trial later this year.
Most neutral observers believe the case is simply bogged down in the Tanzanian legal system and that New Zealand is only representing a deceased citizen and looking out for the interests of his family, who find it difficult to accept that he would take his own life. Kerstin's relatives, however, are frustrated by what they see as "bureaucratic anarchy." She is jailed, they feel, because of undue pressure from New Zealand politicians, including former Finance Minister Bill Birchwho represented the Camerons' district of Port Waikato, south of Auckland, in Parliamentand former Foreign Minister Don McKinnon, now the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
Like Kerstin's father, Gerald Lšsser, and brother Wolfgang, German officials urge a quick but fair resolution. As one official in Dar es Salaam put it: "Germans who live in this country are under the jurisdiction of Tanzanian law. But she's being held in detention with no evidence to support a case. It's against her human rights."
While Cameron's case creeps through the Tanzanian bureaucracy, Bosch's life is in the hands of Botswanan President Festus Mogae. He has the power to grant her clemency, but legal observers say that is unlikely, given the courts' unanimity. Bosch lost her final appeal despite the legal muscle of Desmond de Silva, a British barrister who has saved 35 clients from the gallows, and South Africa has not come to her aid. "Here we have what we call unbuntu, which means we honor our fellow men because they are human," says Grace Morgorosi, a secretary in Gaborone. "If you commit murder, you must pay the price." With little support in Botswana, pressure from international human rights groups may be the last card Bosch has to play.
Reported by Peter Hawthorne/Gaborone and Simon Robinson/Dar es Salaam