Labor and Home Affairs Minister Edwin Jenamiso Batshu
Being a landlocked country, Botswana has remained a transit point and in many instances the destination for human trafficking with children as young as three years finding themselves in the worldwide web of illegal movement of people, WeekendPost has established.
A month long investigation conducted by this publication has established that a number of nationalities find themselves in Botswana after being misled that this diamond rich nation has milk and honey flowing all over.
Some victims of human trafficking who found themselves in Botswana told this publication on condition of total anonymity that they were promised “heaven on earth” by those who trafficked them into the country but only to find the opposite.
According to some of the victims, they were meant to believe that the world’s most precious stone – diamond – can be picked everywhere as one walks down the street. Some were made to believe that diamonds can be gathered in a forest like wild fruits.
With the riches that associated with diamonds, scores of human trafficking victims told this publication that they were forced to pay huge sums of money into to find their way into a country known for its diamond riches.
While some victims of human trafficking are destined for Botswana, it has also emerged that some traffickers utilize the President Ian Khama led country as a transit point to reach other destinations like South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Kenya to name but a few.
But in most cases, victims of human trafficking choose Botswana as their destination since the government is still accepting refugees. Victims from the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes salivate for Botswana not because of its diamonds but peace and tranquility.
“Many of us came to Botswana upon learning that there is a well caring refugee camp,” said a Congolese refugee currently based at the Dukwi Refugee Camp – situated some 100km northwest of Francistown.
Like bags of potatoes, the Congolese refugee who refused to be identified said they were stockpiled into a container truck that was headed for the nearby South Africa and were dumped in Francistown.
“The driver told us in hushed tones ‘We are in Botswana now ladies and gentlemen’. We were told to disembark. And it was around 3am,” recalled the refugee. He said they were later arrested by the police before undergoing the asylum seeking process.
During the past two years, a number of children especially girls from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and other impoverished countries were found in Botswana while on transit to the neighboring South Africa.
Labor and Home Affairs Minister Edwin Jenamiso Batshu confirmed the utilization of Botswana as a human trafficking destination and transit point. He said the usage of Botswana as a transit point for human trafficking is fuelled by the fact that Botswana is a landlocked country.
“Some years ago, dead bodies were found dumped near Tlokweng border post and it was discovered that they were for victims of human trafficking. These people lost their lives because they suffocated while in a container truck which was destined for South Africa,” he said.
Batshu added that the situation (of human trafficking) has been worsening since then. It is against this backdrop of worsening incidents of human trafficking that the government approved the criminalization of human trafficking last year.
He said his ministry and its stakeholders such as the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security have been working hand in glove towards ensuring that incidents of human trafficking are arrested and alleviated.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.