The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has come down hard on the Government of Botswana following the release of the 2018 UNHCR report which has portrayed Botswana in bad light over issues of ‘health, education and other basic liberties’ for refugees.
The report is a summary measure for assessing progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The report measures development by combining indicators of life expectancy, education attainment, and income. The health component contains two indicators: Anti-Retroviral Therapy access and increased gender based violence.
In terms of the operation context, the report suggests that ever since stating their grievances eight years, refugees in Botswana have yet to see changes, as government has not acted on the issues. The refugees had wanted for government to provide for their basic liberties. “The asylum space in Botswana remained limited due to the policies restricting refugees and asylum-seekers to Dukwi refugee camp. The strict encampment policy, coupled with the reservation to the right to work, hampered the self-reliance of people of concern and led to increased dependency and social challenges, including harmful coping mechanisms and increased sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV),” says the report.
It also continues to say that asylum-seekers have been detained at the Centres for Illegal Immigrants for indefinite periods of time. “UNHCR continued to advocate for fair and efficient asylum processes as well as the relocation of detained asylum-seekers to Dukwi camp.” The population trends according to the study shows that in 2017, Botswana hosted 2,480 people of concern to UNHCR, consisting of 2,120 refugees, close to 70 asylum-seekers, and some 290 others of concern. They came mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
According to the statistics compiled by the organization, 348 refugees with HIV received antiretroviral treatment from donors (ART). “Medical care provided to people of concern by the Government did not include antiretroviral treatment,” stated the report. It further continues, “Refugees did not have access to machine readable convention travel documents, which affected particularly those with medical needs that required travel to outside of the country.”
Permanent Secretary at the ministry of defence justice and security Segakweng Tsiane has differed and agreed with the report. “The government offers refugees ART’s. In terms of education, at the convention we committed that we can only avail education up to basic level,” she said in a brief interview. The exclusion of refugees from the 2010-2015 national strategic plan for HIV and AIDS intervention has been cited as testimony of Botswana’s exclusivist policy regarding alien populations, in particular refugees.
In terms of education the organization is also irked by the stance taken by the government barring refugees from accessing higher schooling. “There is a lack of access to tertiary education for people of concern.” As it stands there are 21 refugee students at Nata Senior who will be sitting for the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) who are facing uncertainty to access tertiary education. UNHCR is also concerned by the fact that it was not able to identify a partner to provide legal support to refugees who are usually subjected to unjust treatment.
The only key achievement the UNHCR has managed to get the Government of Botswana to agree to is that it will review the Refugee and Control Act of 1968. Botswana has lagged behind in updating its Recognition and Control of Refugees’ Act, 1968 to align it with relevant international statutory provisions relating to the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, and asylum seekers in the country are having the worst of it.
Botswana has, however, maintained a hard line, and cites national security as a key factor inhibiting the country from updating existing refugee laws. Botswana’s policy of encampment of refugees, non-mandatory provision of ARV treatment and denial of employment for refugees is informed by the outdated piece of legislation.
As it stands 59 refugees departed under voluntary repatriation, while 12 refugees departed for resettlement. It is noted that 100% of refugees received their monthly food distribution. The refugees on annual basis cost UNHCR P10 million as they are given food rations, school uniform for kids and transport to school.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme with the mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of World War II. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.