BONELA has partnered with the Southern African Litigation Council, which is providing funding and legal expertise, in a case it wants the Courts in the country to compel the government of Botswana to provide five foreign prisoners with ARVs.
The government of Botswana is refusing to provide ARVs to foreign prisoners on grounds that such drugs are expensive.
Keikantse Phele, BONELA’s legal officer told the Sunday Standard during an interview that, so far, a statutory notice has long being issued against the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General’s Chambers on or around 26th April 2010 and the Attorney General has, to date, not yet responded to the statutory notice or reacted to it.
Despite this, he said they intend to proceed with the matter in Court once they have procured all the information that they are still compiling.
Phele said that they currently have affidavits of 5 prisoners in place, one of them being a woman.
He pointed out that all the foreign applicants are Zimbabwean citizens.
Asked why the matter, which started five years ago, is taking such a long time to reach the Courts, Phele explained that one of the hurdles they had faced and which has led to the stalling of this matter is that their clinical psychologist has, for the past one and half years, been denied access to prisoners to assess their trauma and psychological damage resulted from lack of ARV provision.
He said that after applying pressure and consultations, the Prisons Authority had recently, in September, allowed their psychologist to assess one and that it was their hope that others will also be accessed.
Phele said that there was unavailability of a local medical doctor to prove that the prisoners need to be urgently enrolled on ARV’s. He added that their suspicion on this is that there is fear of victimisation of the doctors that they have approached, who fear the withholding of their licences by government or, worse, the shutting down of their medical practices.
To address this problem, Phele said that they are working around the clock to get a doctor to depose such affidavits.
Besides doctors’ reluctance to help, he said that technical expertise, like pharmacists, have declined or are responding at a snail’s pace to their requests on critical information that they need from them to counter argue the Government’s assertion that ARV’s are expensive.
Phele said that once they have secured a doctor to depose the affidavits and all the assessments have been done, they will commence proceedings against the Attorney General.