Last week the President of the Republic of Botswana called on the nation to trust in his leadership and guidance. These were sentiments echoed in his address requesting the Parliament of Botswana to accede to an extension of the State of Emergency for an additional 6 months to allow him to take all necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. In this address, President Masisi assured the nation that everything would be done in accordance with the prescripts of the Constitution, laws and regulations all the while protecting Batswana’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Emergency Regulations passed thereafter provided for the deployment of law enforcement officers (defined therein to include any member of the Botswana Police Service, Botswana Prison Service, Botswana Defence Force, Wildlife officers or Directorate of Intelligence Services officers), and they are limited to doing the following:

S28. (1) Where a law enforcement officer has reasonable cause to believe that a person is in violation of these Regulations, he may stop, detain, question and arrest such person and confiscate any vehicle being used by that person, if he considers it necessary so to do.

Furthermore, S28. (2) mandates the general public to ensure that the law enforcement officers are not disturbed in carrying out their duties by stating that: Any person who assaults, obstructs, hinders or resists or uses any threatening or abusive language or aids or incites any other person to assault, obstruct, hinder or resist any law enforcement officer in the execution of his duty under this regulation, commits an offence.

It is clear that under the current State of Emergency, law enforcement officers’ actions are also regulated so they may not act with impunity

 BONELA was therefore shocked and disappointed to read the article published in the Botswana Gazette dated Wednesday 15th April 2020 titled “Police Abuse During Covid-19 Lockdown”. The article narrates a story of an unarmed man with a disability suffering assault, brutality, degrading and inhumane treatment at the hands of law enforcement officers due to a failure to comply with the Regulations; actions contrary to S28 (1).

 Though BONELA understands and fully supports governments actions towards addressing COVID – 19 and the threat it poses to our very existence, actions such as these cannot and should not be tolerated, particularly when perpetrated against PWD who need greater care and support. BONELA therefore calls on the President of the Republic of Botswana, commander of the armed forces and his government to make sure that while they are enforcing the laws aimed at addressing the virus, they do not subject Batswana to abuse and degradation of their dignity.

We strongly urge President Masisi to take swift action for the formation of an independent Police Investigations Unit to ensure that officers who take liberties during this time, are investigated and held accountable for their actions to the fullest extent of the law. This will allay fears that Botswana is heading into a time where rule of law and respect for basic human rights are no longer the cornerstone of our democracy. 

For more information, contact BONELA on: Tebogo Gareitsanye :tebogog@bonela.org or +267 73297509 Cindy Kelemi : cindyk@bonela.org or +267 73007782

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