FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

16th September 2020

BOTSWANA CHILD RIGHTS NETWORK CALLS FOR HON. PONO MOATLHODI TO TAKE LEAVE OF ABSENCE AND REITERATES CALL FOR PARLIAMENT CODE OF ETHICS

The Botswana Child Rights Network (BCRN); a 30-member national coalition of child service CSOs is deeply concerned by what it views as a complete disregard for children’s rights by members of parliament.

Amid the rising incidence of child rights violations in Botswana, it is concerning to learn that yet another member of parliament, Honorable Member for Tonota Hon. Pono Moatlhodi appeared before the courts yesterday in a matter where he (and two others) have been accused of subjecting a child to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment; thereby contravening section 61 of the 2009 Botswana Children’s Act. Reports further indicate that Honorable Moatlhodi has agreed to compensate the victim for the alleged assault.

We make no inferences about the guilt or innocence of Hon. Moatlhodi, but are worried about the growing number of child rights violations in the country. Continued participation of our legislators in the affairs of the national assembly despite their criminal charges of child rights violations is indicative of a society that is of very low moral standards. As South Africa’s founding Democratic President Nelson Mandela said, “there can not be a keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”. National leaders are the mirrors which should be reflective of our character as a nation. The conduct of Hon. Moatlhodi as alleged is therefore highly unacceptable. We call on Hon. Moatlhodi to immediately take leave of absence from the business of Parliament until his matter has been fully resolved. We call on Hon. Moatlhodi to do so in order to protect the integrity of the criminal justice process currently affecting him as well as the integrity of our Legislature. It can not be right that a Member of Parliament appears in court on charges of violating a child and continues with business of Parliament and making laws the next day.

We once more call on Parliament to pass a code of conduct that will clearly guide how matters relating to Members criminally charged, especially on issues of gender based violence and violence against children are treated. We call upon Members of Parliament to remember the following words from His Excellency the President Mokgweetsi Masisi, while still Vice President and leader of the House when debating the motion by Hon. Bogolo Kenewendo to have a sex offenders’ register. “At the heart of this motion as was denoted, we are going through the days of acknowledging and reflecting on sexual violence as enunciated in the Gender Based Violence Protocol. There is need to nudge the consciousness of Botswana with respect to human behavior that is codified, can at least be altered, and moderated from Parliament”. Friday 1st December 2017.

The BCRN therefore calls on Parliament to act swiftly to demonstrate that they too are concerned about the rising incidence of violence in Botswana, and are committed to addressing and ending it. We strongly recommend the institution of a Code of Ethics for MPs - which includes clear guidelines on actions and sanctions to be imposed on MPs who find themselves facing criminal or other charges will go a long way in allaying Batswana’s fears that MPs are above the law, and prove the resolve Parliament purports to have towards addressing rights violations all the while ensuring the integrity of the body remains intact. We call upon Hon. Moatlhodi to immediately take leave of absence until his matter has been resolved.

 

For more information, please contact Ms. Tebogo Gareitsanye at 73297509.

September 9, 2020

HONORABLE MEMBERS – POLYGAMY IS NOT A SOLUTION TO GENDER BASED VIOLENCE PANDEMIC

 

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and Sisonke Botswana Organization are gravelly concerned and disappointed by Specially Elected Member of Parliament and Assistant Minister of Agriculture Development and Food Security Honourable Beauty Manake’s argument in parliament that Polygamy is a possible solution to the gender based violence pandemic currently devastating our country. We posit that this comment demonstrates a lack of commitment and political will to address the escalating incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Botswana.

 

BONELA and Sisonke Botswana Organization are of the view that the Assistant Ministers’ submission is uninformed and amounts to gross negligence. It is inexcusable that leaders who have been entrusted with the protection of their people can make such comments. Legislators needs to understand and appreciate that they have a moral and legal obligation to ensure a conducive environment for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of Batswana through the informed enactment and implementation of laws and policies that promote dignity and positively impact their lives. In the face of ever-increasing incidence of GBV - including that which is perpetrated against minors, in our view; polygamy will not address the problem, but rather exacerbate it.

It has been widely documented that one of the underlying causes of GBV is the persistence of patriarchal values that continue to undermine the rights of women and children in ways that encourage violence.

We therefore submit that GBV needs to be declared a national emergency that will be met with the political will and leadership that it demands. To increase the efficacy and reach of the response, we contend that a well-resourced multispectral approach, much like that which defined the success of HIV programming be adopted. This will enable us to identify and harness positive cultural practices to address GBV.

 

We further assert that a GBV Zero Tolerance campaign be conducted focusing on vulnerable populations such as People with Disabilities (PWD) and sex workers. In response to this pandemic, in order to facilitate access to justice and the expedient dispensation of GBV cases, it is imperative that specialized courts be established.

 

#EndViolenceAgainstWoman
For more information, contact:

Sisonke Botswana Organization : Mandla Pule at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 72923214

BONELA : Tebogo Gareitsanye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73297509

BONELA DISTURBED BY FEAR INDUCING

COVID-19 IMAGES

BONELA acknowledges Government of Botswana’s promptness, proactivity and consistent COVID-19 updates as they relate to the state and development of the virus since its outbreak in Botswana. The updates have offered insight into the extent and impact of the virus on health and related spheres of life such as economic and social.

However, the organisation is gravely disturbed by what it views as disempowering and fear inducing messages about COVID -19 posted in the BW Government Face Book page. The images depict a graveyard, intensive care unit (ICU) and the implication that Greater Gaborone is a “danger zone” accompanied by messages that project what becomes of people when they fail to observe the Ministry of Health and Wellness protocols.

Though BONELA appreciates that the Task Force has expressed apprehension that the level of compliance with the health protocols and Emergency Powers Regulations by the public is less than desirable, we find that the messaging could potentially fuel stigma and discrimination as well as increase the anxiety associated with the unknown that is COVID-19 and the mitigation measures that have Batswana feeling trapped, nervous and helpless.

Consequently, rather than informing and assisting people to understand the virus so as to adopt effective, practical measures to keep themselves and their loved ones safe; the use of graveyards, ICU and magnifying the containment of Greater Gaborone only spurs people into agitation and reactive behaviours which may not help efforts to keep the pandemic at bay such as driving people underground - thereby not availing themselves for testing, whilst chronic anxiety may exacerbate pre-COVID mental health and other psychosocial challenges.

An online study conducted by experts from Utrecht and Tilburg Universities just three days after WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic pointed out that when a threat is uncertain and continuous as with COVID-19, fear can become chronic and burdensome. Thus, WHO has determined that stigma and fear around communicable diseases hamper response.

BONELA’s attitude is that it is imperative that facts, not fear, be made the predominant element in ensuring that communities and individuals positively respond to ongoing preventive interventions, and that these efforts are to be sustained. From a human rights point of view, BONELA contends that the ultimate effect of such images is in effect coercion, stigmatization and detachment.

As such, communities would be better served building trust in reliable health services and to adduce or show empathy to those affected.

For more information, contact BONELA on:

Tebogo Gareitsanye : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73297509

Cindy Kelemi : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73007782

Social Media: BONELA on Twitter @bonelaethics and like our Facebook Page BONELA

DI NWELE DLADLENG CAMPAIGN:

A CATALYST FOR GBV

It is undeniable that COVID-19 and the measures put in place to control its spread have shone a spotlight on governance, administrative, economic and social challenges. The most prominent of these being the social impact of the virus.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the periods of extreme social distancing, there has been an alarming number of incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV), particularly sexual violence against children. This has warranted a response and swift action on the part of government, civil society and the community at large to ensure the protection of all those affected.

It against this backdrop that BONELA raises concern about the di nwele dladleng campaign which, in the interest of maintaining social distancing encourages people who feel so inclined, to purchase alcohol and consume it at home.

Though we appreciate the spirit of this campaign, it would be remiss to not equally note that “alcohol increases the risk, frequency and severity of perpetration of interpersonal violence such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, youth violence, elder abuse, and violence against children.”[1]

WHO recommends that people should not “introduce [their] children or other young people to drinking and [.] not [to] get intoxicated in front of them. Child abuse and neglect can be aggravated by alcohol consumption, especially in crowded housing situations where isolation from the drinker is not possible.” WHO further states that “[a]lcohol is closely associated with violence, including intimate partner violence. Men perpetrate most of the violence against women, which is worsened by their alcohol consumption, while women experiencing violence are likely to increase their alcohol use as a coping mechanism.”[2] The campaign, though well meaning; may have negative externalities.

As government, civil society and other stakeholders strategize on the best ways to curb GBV; BONELA recommends that alcohol be consumed away from the home and that social distancing and other protocols be observed in bars, liquor restaurants and clubs to prevent a further increase in COVID-19 infections.

In addition, it is important to continue to ensure that shelters are availed for people subjected to GBV as well as information on available recourse. Interventions such as psycho-social support and legal aid need to be provided as we seek to balance the economic and social effects of COVID-19.

For more information, contact BONELA on:

TELL| +267 393 2516 or FAX | +267 3932517

Cindy Kelemi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73007782

Tebogo Gareitsanye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73297509

Follow BONELA on Twitter @bonelaethics and like our Facebook Page- BONELA

 


[1] https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/437608/Alcohol-and-COVID-19-what-you-need-to-know.pdf?ua=1 Alcohol and COVID-19: What You Need to Know. WHO 2020

[2] Ibid

BONELA CALLS FOR HOLISTIC


CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

 

  1. Botswana has for many years been lauded as the regional leader in peace, democracy and economic stability. Since independence, the country has positioned itself as a player in international affairs as demonstrated by the signing, ratifying and domesticating international and regional treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR,1966), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1996), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1995), African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) to name a few.
  1. That notwithstanding, the county’s Constitution has come under scrutiny and found to be archaic and lacking in its ability to holistically promote and protect human rights. BONELA has therefore consistently made calls for Constitutional review with a view to include socio-economic rights. This has become even more pressing in the era of COVID-19 given the many lessons government and civil society actors are learning as they reconcile public health concerns with Human Rights.
  1. While BONELA recognizes and respects Honorable Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mr. Kabo Morwaeng’s right to table a Constitutional Amendment Bill; it is however desirable that a more holistic approach in the form of a Constitutional review be pursued.
  1. The BDP promised the electorate that once in power, they would prioritise a review of the Constitution.

“Since independence, the Constitution of Botswana has undergone very little review. The BDP therefore commits to a comprehensive review of the Botswana constitution with an aim to aligning it to international standards. As a republic, we need a constitution that guarantees all citizens equality before the law. All discriminatory provisions will be removed in favour of more inclusive provisions.”[1]

The public therefore has a legitimate expectation for the BDP to deliver on its promise.

  1. BONELA therefore urge Parliament reject this Bill and rather call for a holistic review of the Constitution.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT BONELA ON:


Cindy Kelemi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73007782
Tebogo Gareitsanye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +267 73297509


[1] BDP 2019 Election Manifesto, pg 49

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