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Gov’t halts stimulus programme & other mega projects 

Trade Minister: Peggy Serame

The ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to the economic stimulus package and national development projects – it has forced the Government to halt some projects earmarked for the current national budget. 

The Government has also decided to reduce budgets running into millions for ongoing national projects and those of the ambitious economic stimulus programme (ESP), introduced in 2015 to ‘stimulate the economy. The funds would now be reallocated to finance COVID-19 expenses.
This revelation is contained in a document released recently by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, which for the first time gives a breakdown of how most of the development project budget would be either halted or cut and their earmarked funds reallocated to fight COVID-19.

The Government says the money needed to halt and cut budgets from ministries and reallocated to COVID-19 amounts to P2.3 billion. Some of the projects that would be affected by this decision fall under the economic stimulus package programme. Already political and economic experts warn that the adjustments, if not well managed, may deal a big blow to Masisi’s legacy. According to the document, the annual budget for the Ministry of Basic Education will be reduced by P380 000 000 from P1 317 000 000 to P937 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year.

“Specifically, the budget for the following projects are being reduced as follows: Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) Expansion by P50 000 000, ESP Staff Houses by P50 000 000; ESP Maintenance by P50 000 000, Maintenance of Senior Secondary Schools by P75 000 000 and Secondary School Expansion – COVID Classrooms (ERTP) by P155 000 000. Most of the project activities have not started,” states the document.

The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, the infrastructure development proposal will reduce the Ministry’s Infrastructure Development project budget by P25 000 000 from P26 400 000 to P1 400 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for SSKIA SEZ -Design & Construction of 4 Investors Advance Factories, which has not started.

Another proposal is to reduce the Ministry’s computerisation project budget by P1 500 000 from P9 500 000 to P8 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Design and Development of the Internal MITI Trade and Industry Statistics Database, which has not started.

The other proposal is to reduce the Doing Business Reforms project budget by P2 000 000 from P26 400 000 to P24 400 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Development of an e-Commerce Strategy for Botswana, which has been delayed.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development would have to reduce its social welfare programme budget for the 2021/2022 Development by P120 000 000 from P591 809 298 to P471 809 298 to meet Government’s urgent needs relating to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.

“The budget for the following programmes: Ipelegeng programme (P100 000 000), Destitute Housing – Remote Area Development Programme (RADP) (P10 000 000) and Countrywide Destitute Housing (P10 000 000) are proposed for reduction,” reads the document.
The Ministry of Local Government Infrastructure Investment and Services’ 2021/2022 Development budget is to be decreased by P170 200 000 from P528 609 298 to P428 609 298 to meet Government’s urgent needs related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing.

“The affected projects are Gaborone Transfer Station and Waste Sorting Centre (P10 200 000), Legolas Road (P40 000 000), Mopane-Block 8 Road (P40 000 000), Tlokweng Internal Roads (ERTP) (P40 000 000), and Mogoditshane Internal (ERTP) (P40 000 000),” the document says.
The Development of Primary Education Services for the 2021/22 Development budget is to be decreased by P145 000 000 from P554 000 000 to P409 000 000 to meet Government’s urgent requirements related to COVID-19.

“The proposal is to reduce the provision for the following programmes; Primary Schools Facilities Backlog Eradication Project- ERTP – All Districts (P45 000 000) and Construction of New Primary Schools ERTP 7- Districts (P100 000 000),” the document reads in part.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Corporation, which drafted the document, would have its Statistical Survey and Studies programme annual budget reduced due to delays in starting the 2021 Population and Housing Census. According to the document, the programme’s yearly funding decreases by P100 000 000 from P279 294 304 to P179 294 304.

The Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs’ Computerisation programme for 2021/2022 budget need to be decreased by P26 200 000 from P27 200 000 to P1 000 000; the funds were allocated for two projects being Integrated System Project as well as Upgrading of the National Identification System (NIS) and Births & Deaths Registration System whose implementation has been delayed and currently at consultation stage with various stakeholders.

The document also shows that the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security’s 2021/2022 Revision Agriculture Support Schemes budget is expected to be decreased by P200 000 000 from P580 000 000 to P380 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year.
The affected programmes are: (a) Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development II reduced by P50 000 000), (b) MOA Support reduced by P50 000 000 and (c) Agriculture Infrastructure Development (ERTP) reduced by P100 000 000, to meet Government’s urgent needs relating to COVID-19 pandemic containment and shortfall under the Tertiary Education Financing.

The Ministry’s annual budget would be reduced by P64 500 000 from P313 500 000 to P249 000 000. The affected projects are reduced as follows: upgrading the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources by P50 000 000, Semele Infrastructure by P10 000 000, Refurbishment of Moan Headquarters by P1 500 000 and Refurbishment of Moan Buildings at Extension areas by P3 000 000. Most of the project activities have not started.

The Ministry’s annual Research Support Programme needs to be reduced by P20 000 000 from P40 000 000 to P20 000 000 under the National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI) project to meet Government’s urgent needs relating mainly to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.  The Ministry of Mineral, Resources, Green Technology and Energy proposal is to reduce the Mineral Resources Exploration programme budget by P5 000 000 from P25 347 911 to P20 347 911 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Rehabilitation of Old Mines, which has been delayed.

“The 2021/2022 Development budget is to be decreased by P4 000 000 from P63 556 400 to P59 556 400 to meet Government’s urgent priorities mainly related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the provision for the Energy Efficiency project as some activities have not started,” the document shows.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ annual budget for this programme needs to be decreased by P2 000 000 to cater to ongoing government commitments largely under COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the Health Care Standard project budget as the project has not started. It says the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P26 000 000 from P138 900 000 to P112 000 000. The proposal is to reduce the funding for the construction of a new Health post in Borotsi in (Sefhare-Ramokgonami Constituency) (P3 000 000), Upgrading of Maunatlala Clinic (P3 000 000), Construction of Mini-Health Centres (P10 000 000) and Public Officers’ Housing Initiative (POHI) (P10 000 000). The available balance is sufficient to carry out the implementation of the projects this financial year.

The Ministry’s budget document says the Maunatlala clinic, which falls under the Ministry portfolio, is being reduced by P100 000 000 from P278 350 000 to P178 350 000 from the ministry’.  “The proposal is to reduce the budget for Upgrading of Gumare Hospital (70 beds) (P30 000 000), which is currently at the design stage. The other project is the Upgrading of Tutume Hospital (70 beds) (P70 000 000). The drawings for the project are currently being assessed for adequacy and functionality by the Ministry,” it says.

Concerning the Ministry’s computerisation, the document says the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P12 000 000. The proposal is to reduce the Quality Information Management System (P10 000 000) and e-Health (P2 000 000) projects. The project has not started yet.  The document says the facilitation of elections under the Independent of Electoral Commission (IEC) was reduced by P4 000 000 from P10 612 440 to P6 612 440. The proposal is to reduce the Review of electoral processes (P2 000 000) and Automation of Records Management (P2 000 000) projects. The project has been delayed for Botswana National Archives and Records Services (BNARS) to assess automation rollout readiness.

The document speaks to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology (MOTE) ‘s Research and Development Programme. It says the 2021/2022 annual budget provision for the programme will need to be reduced by P10 000 000 from P43 500 000 to P33 500 000 to meet Governments’ urgent needs related to COVID-19 response.  “The funds were allocated for the Provision of Staff Residential Accommodation for Directorate on Corruption, and Economic Crime (DCEC) project and construction has not yet started,” the document states.

For the Ministry of Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration computerisation programme, the document says, “the E-Cabinet project entails digitising Cabinet proceedings and records. The project’s 2021/2022 annual budget provision is P4 000 000”. However, the project has not started pending a detailed scope of the Ministry of Transport and Communications.  The project is being delayed to augment funds for COVID-19 related costs.

The document says the annual budget of the Social Protection and Preparedness programme is being reduced by P11 500 000 from P53 500 000 to P42 000 000 to augment funds for COVID–19 related costs.  It says the available balance is sufficient to complete the ongoing projects under this programme.

The annual budgeting for strengthening the counter-terrorism and fusion agency programme is reduced by P42 620 000 from P46 396 130 to P3 776 130 to augment funds for COVID–19 related interventions. The document states that the document adds that the project implementation for procurement of ICT Infrastructure has not started.

As for the Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, one of them dubbed broadening the base adding that the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P7 000000 from P77 900 000 to P70 900 000 to meet Government’s urgent needs largely elated to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.

It says the proposal is to reduce the provision for the Development and Marketing of a Swapping Tourism Trail (P1 000 000), District Monuments Development Programme (P1 000 000), Botanical Garden (P5 000 000) and Development of Campsites in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and Chutes Game Reserves (P2 000 00).

For the Ministry of Minerals project, the document says that one of the programmes is being reduced by P80 000 000 from P181 000 000 to P101 000 000 to meet the Government’s priority needs primarily related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal, the report says, is to reduce the provision for the Kasane Kazungula Redevelopment Project.

It says that under the Wildlife Management Species project, the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P4 000 000 from P47 250 000 to P43 250 000 to meet the Governments’ new objectives related to COVID-19. The proposal is to reduce the Water Reticulation (P2 000 000) and Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) Camps (P2 000 000) projects.

The document says Environmental Protection under the same Ministry. The annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P6 500 000 from P31 000 000 to P24 500 000 to meet the Government’s urgent commitments primarily related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.  The proposal is to reduce the Greening of MENT (Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Tourism) and DMS headquarters building (P2 000 000), Establishment of a Centralised Hazardous Waste Treatment & Disposal Facility (P2 500 000) and Botswana Early Warning Hydrological system (P2 000 000).

The document shows that the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture will have to reduce its budget earmarked for its infrastructure development.  “The annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P33 000 000 from P41 145 000 to P8 145 000. The proposal is to reduce the Francistown Stadium Roof project. The Ministry has written to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing (MIH) to assist in the facilitation of the project,” the document shows.

As for infrastructure maintenance, the Ministry of Housing and Development budget will also have to be reduced.  The document says that the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P20 000 000 from P157 079 930 to P137 079 930. “The proposal is to reduce the provision for the following projects: The Mahalapye Department of Facilities Management (P3 500 000), Refurbishment Gaborone Industrial Department of Facilities Management office (P3 000 000), Refurbishment Shake Department of Facilities Management (DFM) office (P4 500 000), Refurbishment Broad Hurst DFM office (P3 000 000) and Government Building Consultancy (P6 000 000),” shows the report.

It says the annual budget of the computerisation programme is being reduced by P14 000 000 to meet Government’s priorities related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing in the main.  The proposal is to reduce the provision for the ICT Equipment (P5 000 000), Automation of MIH Services (P1 000 000) and Local Area Network (LAN) Upgrade (P8 000 000) projects.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications’ infrastructure budget would be reduced, which would lower the annual budget of this programme P247 000 000 from P1 338 356 000 to P 1 141 356 000 to meet the Government’s urgent needs related principally to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.  “The proposal is to reduce the provision for the Nata-Kasane road (P20 000 000), Francistown-Nata-Maun Mohembo (P80 000 000), Gaborone Eastern-By-Pass (P50 000 000), A1 Dulling (P50 000 000), Palapye-Matins Drift (P32 000 000), Mmathethe-Bray-Werra road (P15 000, 000),” according to the document.

It says the railway infrastructure’s annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P247 000 000 from P1 338 356 000 to P 1 141 356 000 to meet Government’s priorities mainly related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing. The budget would be reduced for the following projects: Trans- Kalahari Railway Link (P15 000 000), Mmamabula-Lephalale Railway Link, Optimal Utilisation of the Dry port at Walvis Bay (P20 000 000) and Development of the Inland Dry Ports (P20 000 000). Some of the projects have experienced delays in implementation due to COVID-19 protocols that continue to be enforced.

The Ministry of Defence Justice and Security’s project that will be affected is the strengthening of Botswana Police Services as the 2021/22 Development budget is being decreased by P65 000 000 from P411 900 000 to P346 900 000 to meet Government’s urgent needs related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing.

The document is to reduce the proposal is to reduce the budget for the following projects: Construction of Posts and Base Camps (P10 000 000), Provision of Staff Houses (P40 000 000), Block 10 Police Station (Office Block) (P5 000 000) and Letlhakeng Police Station and Houses (P10 000 000).

“The 2021/22 strengthening of prisons services development budget is being decreased by P25 000 000 from P155 505 587 to P130 505 587 to meet Government’s binding commitments under the national COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing in the main. The proposal is to reduce the budget for the following: Fencing for Prison Facilities (P10 000 000); Staff Houses – Department of Prisons (P10 000 000); and Construction of High-Security Wing at Thane Prison (P5 000 000),” the document reads.

As for the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development facilities programme needs to be decreased by P21 000 000 from P99 654 000 to P78 654 000.  “The proposal is to reduce the budget for the Rapid Skill Centres (P12 000 000) and Construction of Emergency Evacuation Access at Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) Hostels (P9 000 000). BNPC is at the initial stages of procurement.

The annual budget of the computerisation programme needs to be decreased by P1 800 000 from P21 937 000 to P20 137 000. These funds will be sourced from the BNPC Computerization project (P1 800 000), whose implementation has been delayed due to COVID-19 protocols,” the document says.

The Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology will also have its annual budget for the research programme to be decreased by P10 000 000 from P112 473 300 to P102 473 300 to cater for Government’s urgent needs mainly related to COVID-19 national response and Tertiary Education financing.

The document says the proposal is to reduce the Implementation of Research, Science, Technology (RST) and Innovation (Plan) – Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) Review; Technology Foresighting; Square Kilometer Array (SKA); and Space Science Strategy, whose implementation has been delayed. Apart from the more than P2.3 billion requested from Government, the Government had announced that it had set aside P2 billion and other funds from the private sector and other donors, which amounted to millions of Pula to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Opposition talks: Conveners ditched, experts engaged

13th October 2021

The much-anticipated opposition unity talks that will see Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) engage Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are expected to kick off any time from now.

According to informants, the talks, which were preceded by-elections negotiations, aim to be as inclusive as possible. As the talks start, the UDC, composed of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), insist on retaining its preferred model of Umbrella; on the other hand, the BPF is proposing a PACT; and AP is in favour of an alliance model.

BPF is reportedly sceptical on the umbrella model and wants cooperation with the flexibility to allow other parties to join hands with UDC but without necessarily contesting elections using UDC symbols and colours.

BPF, which is currently the fastest-growing party, seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties battered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.

Discussions with some BPF members suggest that the party has big ambitions and harbour serious intentions of taking the BDP by its horns-all by itself-one day. “The position by some of our leaders is that the future of the UDC remains uncertain. The position and advice are that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. And the party elders think the pact model of cooperation is the safest under prevailing circumstances. Some, however, are worried that we should not overestimate our worth despite being the fastest-growing party in the country.

However, the matter is yet to be concluded once we receive the official invite,” revealed a BPF member of the NEC. Asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Lt Gen Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model.

BPF Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse has earlier this year told this publication that: “We have not settled on a model yet.” He also added that as a party, they are ready and willing to work with UDC, “but we will have our thoughts on how the cooperation or the talks should transpire, and they too will tell us their preference, and we will sit on the table to see how best to work together”.

AP heads into these negotiations with proposals of its own. On the model part, AP has expressed flexibility but want its partners to consider other models. AP believes that beyond the umbrella model, the coalition could also have a matrix to ensure that opposition parties select the best candidates for parliamentary and council seats.

AP, a splinter party of the beleaguered Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), asks for the constituencies allocated to BMD in the previous talks before it was kicked out on the eve of the 2019 elections.

AP, which garnered a popular vote of under 40 000 in the 2019 general elections, is confident that it brings tremendous value to the UDC, and state power could be within reach in 2024.
To reconcile the various interest of political parties, the leaders have agreed to engage political experts in a bid to arrive at the best decisions.

“There will be no conveners because parties in the past believed that they (conveners) took decisions on behalf of the constituent parties, though they are not representing any. So, the idea is to rope in political experts to direct UDC and the negotiating parties as to which path of cooperation model to follow,” a highly placed informant said this week.

UDC convener Lebang Mpotokwane has also defended the umbrella model in the past, noting that it creates fewer problems for the participants. The negotiations will be the fourth opposition cooperation talks since the 2009 elections. The opposition has held talks in 2011, 2012 and 2017. The 2012 talks resulted in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been anchoring negotiations since then.

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‘Dingake’ name spoils Botswana’s interest in ILO top post

13th October 2021

When the Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body invited member states to submit candidates for the vacant Director-General post for consideration, Botswana developed a keen interest.

It swiftly mobilized to beat the deadline, but the unions, upon consultation, nominated Justice Key Dingake as their preferred candidate, much to the government’s disappointment, who then decided to dump the whole issue altogether.

In accordance with the Rules governing the appointment of the Director-General and the decisions made by the Governing Body at its 341st and 342nd Sessions, the Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidates for appointment to the office of Director-General of the ILO through communication to all Governing Body members and all ILO Member States and candidatures must be submitted by a Member State of the ILO or by a regular or deputy member of the Governing Body.

The deadline for submission was on Friday, 1 October 2021, and candidatures were to be sent by postal or electronic mail to the following address to the Chairperson of the Governing Body.
This publication had established that when Cabinet sat to discuss the issue, it was resolved that the unions as key stakeholders should be consulted and requested to submit a name for consideration. They did and offered Justice Oagile Key Dingake-a distinguished scholar and labour law expert whose contribution to the country’s labour fraternity is unparalleled.

When asked this week to share their side of the story, the unions said they were first invited to partake in the process by the government but never got a response after they nominated judge Dingake as an ideal candidate.

“We sent our correspondence to the Minister of Employment, Labour and productivity, Mpho Balopi, with our suggested name being Justice Oagile Key Dingake, but since then we never got a response,” said unionist, Tobokani Rari who further expressed disappointment at how the government has handled the matter.

Rari said that while he would not want to impute any improper motives to anyone, the developments rekindled memories of the government’s hostility towards Judge Dingake, who has been forced by circumstances to take his skills and wealth of experience to the benefit of other countries. Balopi did not respond to questions sent to him and did not pick this publication’s calls at the time of going to press.

Cabinet insiders say Dingake’s name spoilt the party and dampened the spirits. “In the list of nominated names, he was the leading candidate, but I guess the powers that be could not imagine themselves campaigning for him and doing all they did for the Executive Secretary of SADC Secretariat, Elias Magosi.”

Dingake’s sin, observers say, has always been his progressive, independent mind and family’s political background, all of which have always stood in his way to progress to the country’s judicial ladder’s ends.

It is understood that also in the mix and preferred by the state was former Attorney General, judge, and now Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and other international organizations, Dr Athaliah Molokomme, who also has a background in human rights advocacy.

But insiders say many believed that the country should export Dingake to represent the country given his decorated experience and background. As a lawyer, Dingake represented 90% of Trade Unions in Botswana, drafted numerous Collective Labour Agreements, later presided overall trade disputes, including Collective Labour Agreements, and made determinations as Judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana.

Dingake has also written and lectured widely on trade, labour and human rights and holds numerous citations and awards for his work regarding peace, human rights, and social development. Had he contested and won, he would have been the first African to lead the ILO.

The ILO is built on the constitutional principle that universal and lasting peace can be established only if based on social justice. The ILO has been the source of such hallmarks of industrial society as the 8-hour day, maternity protection, child labour laws and a whole range of policies promoting workplace safety and peaceful industrial relations. Unique among UN organizations, the ILO has a tripartite structure involving governments, employers and workers.

ILO Director-General elections events lineup…

At its 341st (March 2021) and 342nd (June 2021) Sessions, the ILO Governing Body approved the following timetable for the appointment of the Director-General because the current term of office of the Director-General will come to an end on 30 September 2022:

1 July 2021: The Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidatures
1 October 2021: Last date for the reception of candidatures
A week in January 2022: The Chairperson of the Governing Body conducts interviews with candidates for the position of Director-General based on the format and principles contained in document GB.342/INS/6 and the guidance provided by the Governing Body at its 342nd Session
14-15 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts candidate(s) hearings
25 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts the ballot for the election of the Director-General
1 October 2022: The term of office of the Director-General commences.

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Botswana, EU clash over human rights issues 

13th October 2021
human-rights

Botswana and the European Union (EU) appear to have been at each other’s throats behind the scenes since last year, with the EU saying it held several meetings with Botswana to convince her to address human rights issues. 

This is contained in a 2020 Human Rights Report that reveals broad divisions in contentious issues boiling behind the scenes between Gaborone and the Union. According to the report, which was released recently, the EU says it “continues to follow closely three main human rights issues in Botswana: the application of the death penalty; the rights of LGBTI persons; and gender equality.”

“Botswana remains part of a small group of countries – in Africa and globally – which continue to retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Three executions were recorded in 2020,” the report says. According to the report, the Botswana Government indicated that a public debate on the application of the death penalty should be part of its ongoing work towards developing a Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and the related National Action Plan.

The report says further progress on the rights of LGBTI persons’ seen in 2019, when Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex consensual relations, is still pending, subject to a final court decision over a government appeal.

“Finally, gender-based violence and the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights in society remain another challenge for the country. In response to the high incidence of gender-based violence – which has intensified in many countries during the current COVID-19 pandemic – the President and the First Lady launched a public campaign to fight gender-based violence and to promote equality,” the report says.

The report says the EU did not fold its arms and watch from the sidelines the human rights issues in question are concerned but confronted Botswana to have the contentious issue addressed. “The EU continued to engage with the Botswana Government, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and the broader society in Botswana in three main areas: the death penalty, gender-based violence and empowerment of women, and rights of LGBTI persons, as well as on the support of media and implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations,” the report says.

The report says that in addition to ad hoc consultations and human rights-oriented outreach efforts, the EU engaged with the Botswana Government on human rights formally in the context of the Article 8 Political Dialogue, which took place in February 2020.

“The dialogue offered an opportunity to exchange views on EU’s and Botswana’s experiences concerning the three EU priority areas in Botswana (capital punishment, gender-based violence and rights of LGBTI persons) as well as other human rights challenges, while also exploring opportunities for EU-Botswana cooperation on human rights issues in the context of the EU-Africa partnership and at the multilateral level,” the report says.

In parallel to engagement with the government, the EU said it continued to maintain dialogue with representatives of civil society focusing on human rights and with UN organisations and other partners of the country.

“The EU continues to be the driving force behind the Gender Dialogue (in principle co-chaired with UN Women and the Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Immigration, Nationality and Gender), which brings together various stakeholders to discuss gender issues to chart a way forward regarding partnerships. The EU has also used public diplomacy efforts to stimulate broader dialogue in the country on human rights issues,” the report says.

The EU said it continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with activities focused primarily on helping Botswana tackle gender-based violence, strengthen the notion of gender equality in the country, and promote participation in political processes.

“With six projects already underway, the EU signed two new programmes, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support victims of gender-based and domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised people, with a combined budget of EUR 430,000,” the report says. It says one of the projects is designed to offer care services to victims of gender-based violence and provide clinical services, counselling, shelter, and a referral system for legal and social assistance. Another project provides legal, medical and psychosocial support to refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous people.

It says Botswana remains an important like-minded partner for the EU on the human rights agenda at a multilateral level. “The country’s positive role on human rights in the multilateral context would be further strengthened by initiating a domestic process of reflection about the signature and ratification of several pending core human rights conventions and/or optional protocols (e.g. the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, etc.)” the report says.

But the report acknowledged that Botswana is a stable and well-established democracy with a legal framework and institutions designed to guarantee respect for human rights in society. It says human rights complaints are addressed by the courts, with the government accepting decisions and implementing relevant rulings.

“Although the media scene in the country is relatively undeveloped, the World Press Freedom Index has noted a further positive trend concerning the role of the media in society (as was also the case in 2019) and has improved Botswana’s ranking from 44th to 39th place (out of 180 countries),” the report says.  Meanwhile, this week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with the EU delegation led by the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Services, Ms Rita Laranjinha.

 

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