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Botswana human rights record under surveillance

BASARWA: They have a running battle with government over hunting ban and land rights
 


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is in Botswana to probe the country’s record on human rights particularly those pertaining to cultural enjoyment and freedom amongst others.


Botswana will be the eighth country to be visited by the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Farida Shaheed (Pakistan). She has presented damning and enlightening reports about other countries in her area of expertise. The purpose of visits is to understand, in the spirit of co-operation and dialogue, how States endeavour to implement cultural rights. The intent is to identify good practices in, and possible obstacles to, the promotion and protection of cultural rights in countries.


The office of the High Commissioner on Human rights explains that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur is not to protect culture and cultural heritage per se, but to promote the conditions allowing all people without discrimination to access, participate and contribute to cultural life in a continuously developing manner.


The focus of Special Rapporteur’s country visits, they say, is not solely on visiting cultural sites and institutions, but rather on considering how particular policies, legal framework relating to such sites and institutions as well as other aspects of cultural heritage contribute to the realization of cultural rights on the ground.


“To that end, she would like to meet individuals and communities, managers of cultural sites and directors of cultural and educational institutions, policy makers and administrators,” they stated.


During her visit, the Special Rapporteur will consider different issues related to the enjoyment of cultural rights and specifically the ones related to the right to access and enjoy cultural heritage, including the issue of participation of concerned individuals and communities in the identification, classification, and stewardship of cultural heritage. The right to participate in cultural life, including the right to enjoy the arts, to freedom of artistic expression and creativity and to manifest one’s culture.


The Special Rapporteur would like to discuss these points also considering policies for example in the areas of education and tourism, adopted to ensure that the narratives of various groups, including historical narratives and the way they interpret their own cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, are expressed in the public space and are presented to the wider society.


There have been concerns that the constitution of the country must be reviewed to include social and cultural rights. The government has always maintained that they promote unity rather than things that will divide and fragment the nation into tribal or ethnic compartments.

This view has always been met with strong resistance from groups which posit that nation building should acknowledge, cherish and nurture the diversity of ethnic groups, language, and cultural traditions represented in the nation. Unity they posit is not synonymous with uniformity.


Others have raised the concern about the promotion of one language and one culture – which they say has resulted into the supremacy of Tswana tribes.


The Human Rights Council’s special Rapporteur will be confronted with some of these issues including those of the Basarwa who have been vocal and persistant in their campaigns of recognition.


The special Rappoteur was established by the Human Rights Council, for a period of three years, under  a new special procedure entitled “independent expert in the field of cultural rights”, as set out in the relevant United Nations human rights instruments.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes among others identifying best practices in the promotion and protection of cultural rights at the local, national, regional and international levels, Identifying possible obstacles to the promotion and protection of cultural rights, among other roles.


The rapporteur intends to meet Government representatives including from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (in particular the Department of Arts and Culture), the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, and the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (in particular the Department of National Museum and Monuments as well as officials and /or other departments responsible for cultural and natural heritage).


Others in her list include managers of public institutions or other bodies relevant for the mission, including those responsible for the promotion of tourism (such as the Botswana Tourism Board); responsible for the preservation and safeguard of cultural heritage, tangible and intangible; supporting artists and artistic creation; dealing with the accreditation and dissemination of history textbooks; and in charge of population statistical data (such as Central Statistics Office).

The Special Rapporteur would also appreciate meeting the Ombudsman, academics, research institutes as well as artists and civil society organizations working in the field of cultural policies, cultural heritage and cultural rights as well as United Nations agencies.


The office says that her visit will close with a press conference in Gaborone at which the Special Rapporteur will provide her preliminary observations on the visit. Before the press conference, the Special Rapporteur would like to de-brief the Government of Botswana.

The Special Rapporteur will submit a report on her visit to the Human Rights Council in March 2015. The report will set out and analyse the discussions held during the visit and will make recommendations to a number of actors, including the Government of Botswana, so as to foster the realization of cultural rights. The Government will be given a draft of the report for comments before final submission.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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