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Botswana flouted AU Commission–documents

A 2001 case in which Botswana failed to comply with the African Union Commission’s resolutions taken to fully compensate a local citizen who was wrongfully deported has come back to haunt the country. The revelation, which surfaced this week comes at a crucial time and could potentially cost Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Pelonomi Venson Moitoi the AU Chairpersonship.

Venson-Moitoi is vying for the position for the second time, and it appears the odds are stacked against her, especially after failing to win the post with an outright majority obligation earlier this year.

Weekend Post has established that the citizen, John Kealeboga Modise was first unlawfully deported from his own country Botswana in 1978 and additionally removed on four separate occasions thereafter – under unclear explanations.

The deportation was believed to be politically motivated as the citizen was a staunch opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) activist.

Documents seen by Weekend Post suggest that Modise, who after the case dragged for long later passed on in 2013, was made to live unprotected in a foreign country (South Africa) not of his own choosing.He also stayed briefly in a no-man’s island between Botswana and the South African border.

The deportation separated him from his family and by extension affected and traumatised his four minor children Tsholofelo Modise, Elisabeth Modise, Gladys Modise and Winston Modise.

The development culminated in Modise roping in esteemed human rights attorney Duma Boko and an international legal human rights organisation based in London, Interights, which made submission to the African Commission to consider his case for violations of his rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter) and seek compensation.

The African Heads of State and government thereafter met in Lusaka, Zambia in July 2001, and, found multiple violations of Modise’s rights by the Republic of Botswana and requested that government take steps to remedy the violations and that it should implement the decision of the Commission.

These resolutions included confirmation and documentation of the nationality status of Modise’s children, Gladys and Elisabeth, and the issuance of nationality documents to them. The children were also said to be ‘stateless’ as a consequence of the ‘deportation’ of their father.

In addition the Commission resolved that the family be provided with “compensation of loss arising from or incidental to the violations suffered by Modise”. He claimed compensation of 5 billion pula plus 10% annual interest from the date of the Commission findings to date for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

According to Modise’s lawyers at Interights, the objective in asking for compensation is not to quantify the unquantifiable. “Rather we aim hereby to propose a framework by which the state may acknowledge wrongdoing and provide a material basis to enable the victims, in this case Modise and family, to heal and, in some way, reconstruct and carry on with the remainder of their lives.”

This publication has gathered that other than granting him citizenship by descent, Botswana did not fully comply with the Commission’s decision. This is despite the principle of compensation for human rights violations being very well established in the comparative law of African countries as well as in international law.

“The Commission found the Republic of Botswana in violation of articles 3(2), 5, 12(1) and (2), 13(1) and (2), 14 and 18(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the ‘charter’),” stated a lawyer at the Africa Programme at Interights, Judith Oder, in her communication to the Secretary of African commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights based at Gambia.

Weekend Post has established that the Commission specifically found that the denial of Modise’s right to citizenship while he rightfully deserved it was in violation of articles 3 (2), 5 and the deportation infringed his right to movement and his right to leave and return to his country contrary to article 12(1) and (2).

“The Commission also held that granting him citizenship by registration deprive him of the freedom to participate in the government of his country and constituted a denial of his right to equal access to the public services of his country contrary to article 13 (1) and (2),” the Order insisted.

It found out that, as a consequence of his deportation, the loss of his property and belongings resulted in heavy financial losses in violation of article 14 and the deportation deprived him of his family, and his family of his support in violation of article 18(1) of the African Charter.

It is understood that since the Commission’s finding, Modise and his representative have made attempts to engage with the government of Botswana to progress the implementation of the Commission’s decision.

“However these attempts have been futile. More recently, the attempt to follow up the implementation of the Commission’s decision.”

According to a family representative, who is also the late Modise’s daughter Winston Matshidiso Modise, after 20 years of all the sufferings, when they approached the Master of Court they were told that since they turned down their compensation of P100 000 from government, the case has since been closed.

“We are very disappointed by government’s clear flouting of AUC resolutions and we will determine the next course of action including meeting President Khama and seeing if we can reach an amicable solution,” the family representative/daughter, Winston Matshidiso Modise, told Weekend Post this week.  

Narrating the events, she emphasised that they felt insulted by government’s gesture to suggest to compensate them with a meagre P 100 000 after all they suffered the irreparable damage for the wrongful deportation.

If meeting with the president fails, she said, other options remain open including dragging the government to court if they see fit.

This publication has gathered that in response to Modise’s previous letters a Botswana government representative, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe the then Permanent Secretary to the president and now Ombudsman, stated that the allegation that Mr.Modise’s children are stateless “is without merit and that the offer to the family of P100 000 compensation made to Mr.Modise was done on a purely ex gratia basis and that offer has now lapsed”.

He then concluded by stating that “the recommendations of the African Union Commission are not binding on the government of Botswana and that the government is not obliged to accept and implement them.”

In his letter to President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama on 28 November 2008, Mr Modise had contended that his children Elisabeth and Gladys were stateless. He felt that the state’s proposal of P100 000 was not done in good faith as his representatives who were in contact with the state were not informed of this development.

At the time Modise was summoned to the office of the then Attorney General Ian Kirby (now Judge of the Court of Appeal) where the offer was made. He then rejected the offer of P100 000 as being inadequate and not proportionate to the losses and violations he suffered.

This publication’s efforts to contact Senior Private Secretary to the President at the Office of the President Brigadier George Tlhalerwa, who was said to be handling the case, drew blanks as he was said to be outside the country on official business.

On his part, government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay confirmed knowledge of the case. He however was quick to point out that “last time I heard about the case was 10 years ago and Modise’s family was in talks with the government and I am not sure whether they reached a conclusion on the matter.”

Meanwhile, it is understood that currently six candidates have put forward their names for consideration for the commanding and influential position in which the elections are scheduled at the organization's next summit in January 2017.

Botswana, with signature rooftop diplomacy, still faces resistance from other African counterparts of her bold positions on various matters in the international sphere.

According to information from the UK based Interights “the government of Botswana’s disregard of the Commission’s decision, and its consequence failure to address the violations against Modise, conflict with Botswana’s obligations under international human rights law.”

The London based human rights NGO continues: “The government of Botswana ratified the African Charter without reservations. It is therefore obliged to adopt measures to give effect to the rights provided in the treaty and to appropriately address any violations that have occurred by providing victims of such violations with sufficient redress.”

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.

 

 

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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.

 

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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.

 

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