A fresh study by Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) has spotlighted some gaps in various laws, policies and frameworks which hinder prevention, treatment and care efforts while violating human rights of people living with HIV & AIDS.
A report titled ‘Assessment of legal and regulatory framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis,’ released last week is calling on the government to review a plethora of laws that trample on basic human rights. At the fore front of the study are the Public Health Act and Penal code which, according to the report, discriminate and violate the rights of HIV/AIDS patients.
The study was focused on the key and vulnerable populations including “gay men and other men who have sex with men, Lesbians Gays Bisexuals Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people, sex workers, migrants, prisoners and remote area dwellers.” The study’s findings are concerned by the law criminalizing some aspects of sex work as it inhibits labour regulation and access to police protection, health services and legal remedies when rights violation occur.
It has been revealed that approximately 75% of sex workers are locals while 25% are immigrants, though the two groups share clients. “HIV prevalence amongst Zimbabwean female sex workers is 69.5% and 57.7% amongst Batswana female sex workers.” The report continues; “Basic rights afforded to other workers are also denied to sex workers because of criminalization as illegal work does not afford the protections that legal work requires, such as occupational health and safety standards.”
BONELA study has also punched holes on the biased penal code of Botswana which criminalizes living off the earnings of sex work, brothel keeping, idle or disorderly public conduct. This, the report argue; will lead to victimization and societal marginalization of sex workers by perpetuating stigma, violence, harassment, blackmail and discrimination.
While homosexuality is not illegal in Botswana consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex is a criminal offence. Section 167 of the penal code prohibits “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices”. Carnal knowledge which is against the order of nature makes one criminally liable with a possibility of serving five years in prison.
It has been suggested to legislators that they should repeal laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex. Botswana, regarded as one of free and fair countries that uphold basic human rights, has also been encouraged to “review laws and regulations including nuisance, public disorder, cross-dressing, impersonation and similar offences, which are used to target, harass, and commit human rights abuse against LGBTIs.”
The 145 paged report has also highlighted that the persons in custody are also neglected due to high levels of stigma, lack of investment and political will. “Prisoners and persons in custody are at high risk of HIV infection due to sexual violence, unsafe sexual practices and unsafe drug injection,” states the report.
BONELA has pleaded with lawmakers to amend the penal code to decriminalize consensual sex between adults of the same sex. Further it has been recommended that “regardless of the legality of consensual sex between adults of the same sex, provide protective barriers including condoms, dental dams and lubricants to all prisoners to ensure that they have the means to protect themselves from HIV and STIs.”
Persons living in remote areas in Botswana are also experiencing challenges in accessing all health services including HIV and TB related health services. The study observes that some of the challenges are accessing information on preventive strategies and intervention programmes and limited access to condoms and protective barriers. The report has indicated that Basarwa who were resettled in New Xade experienced increased HIV and TB prevalence.
“Some remote area dwellers live on private farms while others live in resettlement areas. Key informants indicated that those living on private farms may have to travel great distances to access health centers, in some cases 100km or more.” This has prompted the human rights organization to push the government to implement a specific policy framework and programmes that address the health needs of remote area dwellers. “Provide through law and policies provisions that specifically protect the rights of remote area dwellers, including the right to non-discrimination and non-discriminatory access to health services,” suggested the report.
The criminalization of sodomy, nuisance and other laws stigmatize LGBTI people and makes them vulnerable to blackmail, illegal detention and other discrimination. Botswana by criminalizing this is against the rights protected International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and impedes health-seeking behavior. Penalizing consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex interfere with the right to privacy.
The human rights committee has specifically recommended that Botswana repeal the sodomy and other penal code provisions that criminalize consensual sexual activity between consenting adults. Findings of the study have been shared with the legislators to try to repeal some laws which discriminate the key and vulnerable populations. Failure to review some of these laws then the government’s aspiration to register zero infections remains a pie in the sky, the report warns.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.