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.