Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/Aids (BONELA) has castigated Francistown Mayoress Sylvia Muzila for encouraging police to beat up prostitutes as per the reports in one of the local tabloid newspapers. According to the newspaper Muzila who is also a former police officer made the unsettling remarks when delivering a speech during a Sefalana Hyper Customer’s day in Francistown two weeks ago. It is reported that she warned that if sex workers do not stop the habit they should brace themselves for police beatings. She also condemned men for buying prostitutes as this habit contributes to the escalation of HIV/Aids.
Francistown which is a gateway to the North African countries has not been spared from a rise in prostitution, a situation which is also catapulting to the rise in HIV/Aids infections. The second city has the second highest infection rate in the country after Selibe Phikwe. There is also a number of illegal brothels around the city. The habit has also been worsened by a number of Zimbabwean immigrants who have joined the locals in the illicit trade.
However BONELA has not taken kindly to the statements made by Muzila as they regard such sentiments as reckless and irresponsible.
In an interview after making a press release, the Policy and Legal Advisor at BONELA Phazha Molebatsi said the mayoress’s statements were disappointing to say the least.
He said her call for use of violence against sex workers comes at a time when such is least expected and they as BONELA do not expect such statement to come from her as a leader in the community.
“This remarks come at a time when leaders around the world are strategizing to stop police brutality on people in violation of their human rights, which should imperatively enjoin the mayor to be part of this noble effort by leaders who are interested in promotion of peace in their communities and fostering a human rights oriented police force,” he said.
Molebatsi said Muzila should have involved the community on issues of prostitution rather than making such remarks as this might incite a spiral of violence from the police on sex workers. He further said as a leader the mayoress should be cautious about her personal views not interfering with her leadership as a role model. He said the call for violence by the mayor does not deserve the support of BONELA’s aspirations, the laws and norms of Batswana as a peace loving nation.
“Not only does violence against sex workers violate their human rights but it will also frustrate government efforts to respond to the HIV/Aids scourge. The mayoress call for violence on sex workers poses a serious threat to the efforts of the government of Botswana to improve access to quality HIV/Aids services as outlined in the Botswana National Strategic Framework for HIV/Aids,” he said.
Molebatsi continued to add that if such a call is heeded, it could bring about a regression in the formation of an enabling legal environment that is key to combating HIV as espoused by the National Strategy for Behaviour Change Interventions and Communications for HIV Aids.
BONELA is of the view that Muzila’s statement is irresponsible and misses the bigger picture and the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) demanding that she retract her statement in an effort to do good and make the lives of people better.
“When you are a leader you need to strategize issues and you need to create a peaceful environment. Sex work is not illegal, but what is illegal is the benefitting from the proceeds of sex work. Even if sex work is illegal it would not be justifiable to beat up people There is absolutely no basis to use violence on the community or anyone. It is not even part of our culture in Botswana,” Molebatsi added.
However several efforts to get a comment from Muzila last week and on Monday proved futile as she was said to be busy with Botswana 50 Mini Independence celebrations in various wards around Francistown. Her mobile phone also rang unanswered up until going to press.
Reached for comment about this issue, Police Deputy Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Dipheko Motube could not comment saying that they still need some time to familiarize themselves with the said remarks.
“I still have to familiarize myself with this issue and come back to you,” he said.