The Botswana government has not ratified the United Nations (UN) convention on People with Disabilities (PWD) and it has emerged that the country is not ready to domesticate the protocol nine years on for fear that it may violate the set rules.
The Executive Director of the Botswana Council for Disabled, Sekgabo Ramsay says the government excuse for not domesticating the convention is that “the system is not ready.”
“If the government ratify the convention, it would be required to domesticate it and therefore bound to comply with it. The government could easily be sued by people with disability if for some reasons it offends the convention, but we have to lobby and advocate for the ratification regardless of whether they are ready or not. If we wait they (government) will never be ready,” Ramsay further explained.
As the world celebrates the human rights Month this March, the eyes of the country’s human rights groups such as BCD and the Botswana Network on Law and AIDS (BONELA) are on whether the government would take a step closer to ratifying the convention which seeks to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
Persons with disabilities according to the convention include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. “We are outraged by the fact that Botswana has not signed the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
As a result Botswana does not have a specific disability law. The National Disability Policy of 1996 has been under review for more than two years. The absence of a policy and legislative framework to acknowledge disability as a human right, has resulted in a fragmented response to disability issues including addressing the needs of persons with disabilities,” added another human rights activist, Cindy Kelemi who is the Director of BONELA.
The review on the 1996 national policy on disability was completed and submitted to Cabinet about two years ago and it is yet to be brought before Parliament and Kelemi is of the view that the policy could provide a conducive environment for minority groups to claim their rights.
“While we acknowledge that significant strides have been made to address the needs of persons with disabilities, a lot more still needs to be done and having a policy in place will be a good starting point. We need to increase efforts to raise awareness about disability issues, empower people with disabilities to actively participate in the political, social, economic, cultural and religious discourse and creating strategic partnerships to advance the rights of persons with disabilities,” Kelemi added.
Kelemi’s contention is that without disability specific legislation in place, the ability of government to protect the people living with disability is quite limited and the prospects of the future of the disadvantaged group depend on the ability and willingness of public officers to implement the existing policies.
Although the government has not ratified the convention in question, it has put up disability programmes in different Ministries and an office directly dealing with disability under the Office of the President. However, Kelemi is not happy with the office’s performance and is disappointed that it has failed to convince the Minister of Presidential Affairs to take the policy to Parliament to date.
“We were truly elated when the office of disability was established under the office of the president. We had hoped that the office will be able to advocate for persons with disabilities from within government. We had hoped that the Disability Office will work towards ensuring that Government of Botswana signs the UN Convention on the rights for persons with disability which is legally binding in nature. But we are disappointed that this office is only limited to coordination, integration and resource mobilisation. While these activities are critically important, as long as we do not have a conducive policy and legal environment these efforts will remain futile. As long as disability issues are not addressed from a human rights approach, we will continuously experience problems,” Kelemi pointed out.
BONELA and the Botswana Council of the Disabled remain committed to advocating for ratification of this convention and will continue to engage with government on this issue. Meanwhile the current session of Parliament closes in less than two weeks time and the policy issue is not in the agenda. The next session only comes in July this year.
The Coordinator in the office of People living with disability, under the office of the President, Thomas Motingwa was yet to respond to Weekend Post enquiries at the time of going to print.
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.
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.
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.