SISONKE Botswana Association, a national organization run by sex workers for sex workers, has been unjustly refused registration by the Department of Civil and National Registration. SISONKE is currently nested under the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and applied for registration in 2011. In the letter of refusal, dated 20 May 2014, the Assistant Director of Registrar of Societies, N. Baruti cites the Societies Act CAP 18:01 Section 7, subsections 2(a) and h(iii), which states that:

(2) The Registrar shall refuse to register and shall not exempt from registration a local society where— o(a) it appears to him that any of the objects of the society is, or is likely to be used for any unlawful purpose or any purpose prejudicial to or incompatible with peace, welfare or good order in Botswana;

(h) the name under which the society is to be registered or exempted—

(iii) or is, in the opinion of the Registrar, repugnant to or inconsistent with any written law or otherwise undesirable.

The citation of these two sections reveals the ambiguity and bias forming the basis of their refusal. Both subsections reference the “opinion of the Registrar,” giving importance not to objective judgment but rather to idiomatic opinion. Furthermore, despite what section 7 subsection 2(a) states, SISONKE is neither for an “unlawful purpose” nor has a purpose “incompatible with peace, welfare or good order.” SISONKE is an organization with a membership base of over 1,500 sex workers based in Gaborone, Francistown and Kasane. The organization is devoted to helping sex workers, a very real and very present part of the population, by working towards:

  • Empowering adult sex workers of 18 years and above to practice and promote safer sex
  • Enabling adult sex workers to promote and protect and claim their rights
  • Providing psychosocial, legal and health services for sex workers.
  • Decriminalizing sex work to create an enabling environment for sex workers to access services.

Tosh Legoreng, the Executive Director of Sisonke Botswana Association stated, “Sex workers have been identified as a key population whose needs must be addressed in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” SISONKE recognizes that decriminalizing sex work is an incredibly important step to reducing HIV infection among sex workers and their clients. This adheres to national goals for ‘Zero new infections, Zero AIDS-related deaths and Zero discrimination’ by 2016.

SISONKE believes the Department of Civil and National Registration made a grievous error in denying registration to SISONKE. According to the recent Biological and Behavioural Survellaince Survey, results showed female sex workers to be the sub-population most affected by HIV in Botswana, with an estimated population size of 4000 in 3 districts and a very high HIV prevalence of 61.9% and incidence of 12.5%. In order to combat HIV/AIDS in Botswana, it is essential that the government of Botswana recognize and support all marginalized populations, including sex workers and organisations such as SISONKE Botswana Association.

According to the Executive Director of BONELA, Cindy Kelemi, the Registrar of Societies has violated sex workers’ right to freedom of association by denying SISONKE, and by association, denying sex workers registration, which are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Botswana. BONELA will appeal to the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs. In the event that the appeal is not successful, we will use the court system to claim the rights of sex workers in Botswana.

For more information, kindly contact Tosh Legoreng at +267 393 2516 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA); will join the nation and other Member States of the African Union in commemorating June 16 as a remembrance of the 1976 Soweto uprisings.

As we commemorate this day, which came about as a result of the 1976 young people and school children, making an issue of what they felt was an uninspired education system at the time. Although the uprising had a heartbreaking outcome, it contributed greatly to the 1991 resolution by the African Union to designate 16 June, as the ‘Day of the African Child’, BONELA challenges all leaders and parents to take their leadership role seriously in protecting children against abuses that hinder their education, to facilitate children’s development and survival in order to access education and to ensure that children are active participants in realizing their dreams and rights. 

While Botswana prides itself with progress made in education- as there has been rapid progress toward universal primary education, the quality of education is often somewhat lacking. School performance around the country has dropped; school infrastructure is dilapidated; working conditions for service providers in schools leaves a lot to be desired; children are experiencing sexual abuses; parents are passive in their children’s school work and/or life. All these challenges are a clear indication that we still have a long way to go in realizing fundamental human rights for children in this country. This may have been the sentiment behind this year’s theme: “Child friendly, quality, free & compulsory education for all children in Africa.” BONELA, therefore, calls on parents and all leaders (community leaders, religious leaders, politicians, policy makers, service providers-educationists, psychosocial support, health and legal providers) to desist from lip service and be accountable in all aspects- in all policy formulations and laws as well as in the programmes designed to facilitate access and utility, and in creating a conducive and just environment that facilitates learning.

Young people and children are the future, hence, they need to be nurtured today, so be responsible and let your contribution count in making young people and children’s rights a reality!! 

For more information; please contact BONELA on 393 2516



The above matter refers,

  1. From May 2014 to October 2014, BONELA will embark on a national IECSCR campaign under the theme ‘From Privileges to Rights’ to build momentum to influence the ratification and domestication of the ICESCR into the Botswana Constitution.
  1. The campaign will collaboratively be implemented by BONELA and its partners, stakeholders and the public at large. The campaign seeks to hold the government and/or their Council and Parliament representatives accountable and pressurize them to ratify the ICESCR to facilitate a process that ensures that that second generation rights (Socio – Economic Rights) are entrenched in the Botswana Constitution as they are currently not provided for. The campaign will also focus on the general public to support by educating and lobbying their Council and parliamentary candidates to support the ICESCR campaign.
  1. Essentially, the campaign calls for Botswana to ratify and domesticate this Covenant on Socio-Economic and Cultural Rights is based on the fact that these are rights that matter most to the wellbeing and quality of people’s lives. Without them, the right to life for example is extremely compromised.
  1. By advancing this campaign particularly in 2014 which is an election year in Botswana, , BONELA asserts and affirms   this as an opportune time to make a difference to the way in which economic, social and cultural rights are viewed in Botswana. Ratification of this covenant would mean Botswana adopt and adapt to a rights based constitution that enables the protection and fulfilment of its citizens ‘rights to second generation rights, hence, this campaign.
  1. This letter, therefore, serves as an invitation for you to attend a Press Briefing on this campaign, to be held on Tuesday 06 May 2014 at BONELA Offices Plot 37208 Block 8, Gaborone. The Press briefing will start at 9:30am.

Kindly confirm your attendance with ‘Bezi Mothubana’ and Lettie Gabontshwe on 3932516 for any further details or engagement you may require.

Thanking you in advance and looking forward to your usual attendance and participation.

Yours Faithfully


Felistus Motimedi

(Programmes Manager)


Gaborone–On Tuesday, the Botswana High Court will hear argument in a case challenging the government’s refusal to provide anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to foreign prisoners. 

“Prisoners, particularly foreign prisoners, are a vulnerable group who usually have no means to access life-saving medication if the government does not supply it. These prisoners face great suffering and even death if the government continues to deny them ARVs,” said Cindy Kelemi, Executive Director of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), an applicant in the case. 

“The decision to deny foreign prisoners ARVs is irrational as it not only puts their health at severe risk, but also places other prisoners at risk of illness, including tuberculosis and HIV,” said Priti Patel, Deputy Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which is providing assistance in the matter.

What: The Botswana High Court will hear argument in Tapela and Others v the Attorney-General and Others, a case about the rights of foreign, HIV-positive prisoners to access HIV treatment.

Where:            High Court, Gaborone, Botswana

When:             09:30am, Tuesday 10 June 2014

The two foreign, HIV-positive prisoners and BONELA argue that the government’s policy of denying ARV treatment to foreign prisoners living with HIV is unlawful and unconstitutional. In particular, they argue that it denies the prisoners’ rights to life, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination and equality.They further argue that the policy is irrational in that it is more costly to treat opportunistic infections (OIs), as the government is currently doing, than to treat the prisoners’ HIV and places other prisoners at risk of OIs such as tuberculosis.

The court had previously ordered the government to provide foreign prisoners with ARV treatment as the government had failed to file opposing pleadings in the matter. This order was rescinded upon agreement of both parties and the government has now filed its arguments before the court. 

The government raises a number of procedural complaints against the application and further arguesthat it is under no legal obligation to provide ARV treatment to foreign inmates. 

The applicants are represented by Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC, Advocate Isabel Goodman and Tshiamo Rantao.

For more information:

Priti Patel, Deputy Director, SALC:         

+27 11 587 5065 (o)

+27 76 808 0505 (m)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Cindy Kelemi, Director, BONELA:   

+267 393 2516 (o)

+267 72385054 (m)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For live updates from the court:          @Follow_SALC

For background on the case: South African Litigation Center: ongoing cases


Yesterday on the 19th March 2014 the Attorney General of Botswana served us with an urgent application for rescission of the order that was granted on the 17th of March 2014 which ordered the provision of ARV’s to foreign prisoners. As you may recall, the order was granted based on default due to failure by the AG’s to file papers and to appear before the court. Their current application is that they be given a chance to respond to the papers.  The application is therefore scheduled to be heard today at 2pm in Gaborone High Court.

BONELA together with its partners SALC have agreed with our Attorneys, Rantao Kewagamang that we consent to the rescission application with intent to allow the court to set the precedent and jurisprudence on this matter. The prisoners adversely affected by government’s decision to deny them ARV’s are currently receiving treatment from a donor hence it is not unfavourable for their health. We strongly believe we have a good case and hence we look forward to the court’s decision on the matter.

This is a public interest matter. We are therefore appealing for your support to attend the court proceedings today at 2pm at the Gaborone High Court in the CBD.

Thanking you in advance for your anticipated cooperation. 

Kindly contact Rodgers Bande, John Machara or Cindy Kelemi on 3932516 or 71407069 / 72385054 or 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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