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Botswana, UK clash on key human rights issues

The United Kingdom (UK) and Botswana’s divergence on key elements of human rights may expose the vulnerability of the countries in as far as straining relations between the two is concerned, this publication can reveal.


Botswana is a former protectorate of Britain and does not only enjoy shared bilateral relations and values to date, but are also both members of the commonwealth. WeekendPost understands that the UK and most of the western countries have deep reservations about some countries’, Botswana included, reluctance to abolish death penalty and de-criminalise homosexual acts. In Botswana homosexuality is illegal as espoused in the country’s significant legal instrument, the Penal Code.


Penal Code section 164 states that “any person who (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits any other person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.”


In an interview with WeekendPost this week in Gaborone, the British High Commissioner in Botswana, Kate Ransome stated firmly that homosexuality should not be discriminated against in the legislations and laws of Botswana. “The penal code criminalises homosexual acts, and being a homosexual itself is not a crime in Botswana. That’s a very important distinction. So for somebody to be homosexual and discriminated against is, under the law of the country, illegal,” she pointed out as the interview slowly took pace.   


She said in the UK homosexuality was decriminalised in the 60’s. She explained that the not so long ago Court of Appeal judgement has made it very unambiguous in a case between Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) and the government of Botswana on what the law says and making the gay organisation eligible for registration as per the law. This, the British High Commissioner believes was a milestone for minority human rights in Botswana.


“It says everyone has human rights. It doesn’t differentiate. In other sense everybody have human rights. And it’s about looking at those human rights and making sure that people don’t violate and discriminate those with various differences,” she further pointed out.  
She said the rule of law is being upheld for them and that she thinks it’s the same thing for this country adding that they want to make sure that those rights are being respected and not discriminated against and that there is no violence on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation.


“Working with LEGABIBO was about helping people understand their own lives, and making sure that they are not discriminated against in their own constitution. They have rights as citizens of this country and we want to make sure that their rights are respected, not discriminated against or suffering violence. We contribute to promoting rights of all individuals as the constitution of the country maintains.”


The constitution of the country points out in section 3 that “whereas every person in Botswana is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest to each and all of the following, namely— (a) life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law; (b) freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association; and (c) protection for the privacy of his home and other property and from deprivation of property without compensation.


The section continues: “the provisions of this Chapter shall have effect for the purpose of affording protection to those rights and freedoms subject to such limitations of that protection as are contained in those provisions, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the said rights and freedoms by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.”

Every country can choose whether to maintain death penalty but…


The UK British High Commissioner said that her country, the UK abolished the death penalty some time ago. “We did that because we didn’t feel that it actually served us any real purpose anymore, and it didn’t act as a deterrent or necessarily fulfil the justice I suppose in it, so for us in the UK we abolished the death penalty.” She however highlighted that it’s obviously for each country to decide for themselves on whether it wants to maintain the death penalty or not.


Ideally, she insisted that she would want to live in a world where the death penalty is not being practised. “I think it needs to be clear about the death penalty, so I think each country has to make a decision in line with their justice system but obviously we do encourage countries to question if they need the death penalty anymore and to look into having more moratoriums when carrying out executions.”


On Khama having being born in the UK..


The current President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama was born in 1953 at  HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chertsey" o "Chertsey" Chertsey, Surrey, UK during the period in which his father Sir Seretse Khama (first President of Botswana) was in exile due to the antagonism by the colonial government in Botswana and the emergent apartheid regime in   South Africa to his marriage to a white woman, Ruth Williams who was a British national.


Ransome commented that she was not sure if the president being born in her country of origin would make any difference in how they interact. “I mean his role is to lead Botswana and represent Botswana, and I think it is what he does just like any head of State do for their countries. So I think where he is born and grew up is irrelevant in that respect for us,” she said about Khama.  


On the long serving Botswana High Commissioner to the UK Roy Blackbeard..


Prior to his long diplomatic position, Roy Warren Blackbeard had worked for De Beers and Price Waterhouse Coopers before he became a Member of the National Assembly of Botswana in 1989, representing the then Serowe North under the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) banner.


He later served as the Assistant Minister for Agriculture in 1992 and the Minister in 1994, which he held until 1997; in 1998, he abruptly left parliament paving way for Bangwato paramount Chief Ian Khama who has just been recruited from the Botswana Defence Force where he served as Commander, to represent the constituency at his royal home village Serowe.


Blackbeard was subsequently appointed the High Commissioner in London, the position he served since 1998 to date. This has subsequently sparked debate on why he has served that long, unlike other ambassadors and High Commisioners. Observers believe Blackbeard is likely to come home after the end of term for Khama as president. The British Commissioner treaded carefully when asked of the developments, instead pointing out that it’s not really for her to say whether how long a High Commissioner should be sent to other countries.


“Different countries do it differently. There are many High Commissioners and ambassadors at the UK, some serve for a short time and some serve many years. We welcome all of them and we enjoy working with all of them,” she said cautiously. However, when pressed further she added “I am here worrying about my work and I am sure he (Blackbeard) takes instructions from his Ministry and the President and he delivers what they want; that’s his role, that’s the role of a Head of a Mission, you follow instructions from governments and Head of State of the day and to deliver them on behalf of their country.”  


On BREXIT and impact on Botswana…


Following a referendum last year in June in which the Britons voted in a closely contested referendum to leave EU, last week the UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50. An official British government website indicates that a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill was published, setting out the Government’s approach to converting existing EU law into domestic law on the day UK leaves the EU. It is said that the paper aims to give maximum legal certainty for businesses, workers and investors and sets out how the Great Repeal Bill will deliver a smooth and orderly exit.


This process is said will ensure that the same rules and laws will apply after the UK leaves the EU as they did before, from the moment UK leaves. After the UK has left the EU and sovereignty has returned to the UK Parliament, it will be able to decide which elements of law to keep change or repeal.


Ransome said last week that “today is quite a momentous time because it’s the day that Prime Minister triggered the treaties that allow UK to leave EU. So that’s what has been going on today in Bruxels.” She said as per UK Prime Minister’s statement, leaving EU is about being more global, being more open to the world. “Our future impacts in future relations with the UK do not affect relations with countries outside the EU as she spoke with that we will reinvigorate and build relations with countries even inside Europe. We want to engage more globally.”


According to her, the UK is hosting the commonwealth, next year in 2018 (in Britain), she said they want to see relations being invigorated, delivering for the members or the people of the commonwealth nations. “And that will include looking at the range of issues including skills development and it’s the kind of change that would benefit Botswana,” she said.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

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.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

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.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

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.

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