In Zimbabwe seven suspects accused of trafficking women from Zimbabwe to Kuwait for slavery purposes, under the guise of securing employment for them as maids in the Arab country, were recently granted $300 bail each pending trial by a Harare magistrate.
Botswana has not escaped the human trafficking exploits of greedy masterminds. The Police in Botswana continue to make arrests of individuals involved in human trafficking.
This publication has learnt the Zimbabwe Kuwait trafficking ring has ties in Botswana and South Africa.
Investigations have revealed that upon arrival in Kuwait, the victims were placed under “house arrest” and were not paid salaries but the money was wired to the traffickers in Zimbabwe as payment. The main agent based in Zimbabwe will eventually pay his contacts in Botswana and South Africa.
Their Arabian accomplices would at times demand ransom from the victim’s families in order for them to release the women, mainly young ladies. The agents reportedly lied to the victims that they would be afforded an opportunity to further their education by their new “employers” in the oil-rich country.
In Zimbabwe the gang is charged with contravening sections of the Trafficking Persons Act (Recruits, transfers, harbours or receives another person that he or she knows or suspects is being or is likely to be trafficked or attempts, assists or conspires with others for the commission of the crime of trafficking). In Botswana investigations are yet to reveal or expose the real agents who worked with the Zimbabwean gang. But isolated cases of human trafficking continue to be recorded by the police.
Botswana police have in the past intercepted human trafficking deals. Recently a mini bus transporting young girls to suspected trafficking hotspots was nabbed in Francistown.
Police fear that young ladies are at risk because they are promised high paying jobs in these Arabic countries only to be forced into sex slavery and domestic work under harsh conditions.
TWO SOUTH AFRICANS ACCUSED OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Meanwhile two South Africans slapped with charges of human trafficking appeared before Village magistrate Mompati Taolo this week Wednesday seeking bail. An attorney representing one of the accused demanded that the charges against his client be dropped because the state has no case against her.
Attorney Friday Dutch Leburu representing second accused, Sowetan Antoinette Nthoba, told the court that the female accused never had the intention to come into Botswana territory and had been lured and entrapped by the Botswana police.
Leburu said that Nthoba was initially sent to the South African Kopfontein/Tlokweng border post to collect two mature Ethiopian individuals, who on their own initiative had boarded an Ethiopian Airways flight to Botswana en route to South Africa as their final destination.
He continued that when Nthoba arrived at the border at nightfall she received a call from an individual in Botswana who turned out to be an undercover Investigating Officer (IO) in the sting operation. Leburu then said the Investigating Officer agreed with Nthoba to find accommodation for the Ethiopian pair and Nthoba agreed to repay the P800 accommodation fee the next morning.
He says that the next morning the IO again contacted Nthoba who did not know that she was being duped by Botswana Police into setting foot on Botswana territory. Leburu continued to say that when Nthoba finally met with the IO she paid him 1500 in South African Rands instead of the initially agreed P800 for accommodating the Ethiopians because she did not have cash in the Pula currency.
Leburu says that to endorse his argument that the charges against Nthoba must fall, Nthoba had not even met or spoken to the Ethiopian individuals she had come to collect.
The Attorney observed that charges against Nthoba do not stick as they do not meet the three elements constituting human trafficking.
He said that the Police charge sheet does not state whether Nthoba recruited, transported nor harboured the allegedly trafficked Ethiopians.
He also further said the sub-elements of the use of threats; abuse of power and abuse of vulnerability combined with the element of purpose which encompasses elements of general exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced labour and slavery are not in any way tied to Nthoba.
Leburu also said that since Nthoba never had the intention to come into Botswana she should be given free bail as she has children and a family in South Africa and that she has already suffered pre-trial prejudice as she has spent close to two weeks in prison.
Leburu also bordered on accusing the Directorate on Public Prosecutions (DPP) of trying to salvage public confidence and using the accused South Africans as ‘fall guys’ in trialing a rare case of human trafficking insinuating that, “it has been lousy at DPP in the past few months.”
The first accused 49 year old Hanamantsi Lekena who was representing himself requested bail and he promised not to avoid court as Botswana and South Africa have an existing extradition treaty.
Lekena denounced any connection to human trafficking saying he was arrested at a bar talking on his mobile phone. Lekena also narrated his extenuating circumstances before the court saying he supports his family including seven nephews and nieces who will suffer if his incarceration continues and that his father and mother passed on in 1979 and 2014 respectively.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”