Saturday, June 19, 2021

Botswana civil society files scathing human rights report

Botswana’s civil society has filed a scathing report on Botswana’s human rights and governance record with the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

The report entitled “the big governance issues in Botswana,” states that human rights are not enjoyed by all. The report states that areas of concern, include violence against women and children, discrimination against indigenous people, over reliance on and abuses by the mining sector, access to health care services among others. The report recommended that government should develop a comprehensive national action plan on human rights that applies to both state and business.

Continuing with its onslaught on Botswana’s democratic credentials, the report noted that as far as separation of powers is concerned, “political and personal interests have made Botswana’s three arms of separation of powers difficult.”

According to the report, ” although the judiciary boasts a high level of independence, Botswana’s Parliament is limited in what it can achieve without the executive.”

Observing that Botswana’s Parliament is weakened by the first past the post electoral system, the report recommended it be removed from being under the Office of the President.

On public service, the report says Botswana’s public service performance could be improved or solved through de-centralisation; the transfer of authority from central to local government. 

Regarding citizen participation and economic inclusivity, the report says that although considered a full democracy, Botswana needs to address the lack of citizen participation in both its political and economic sphere. 

“Barriers to political participation include the first past the post electoral system, party political funding structure, a fragmented opposition, all of which have helped to entrench the ruling party’s hegemony,” the report says. 

Although Botswana has over the years demonstrated high levels of transparency and accountability, declining performance according to governance indicators in recent years, however, warrants concern”, the report states.

“Issues of concern include corruption, independence of oversight bodies, lack of access to information and the media, conflicts of interest.” The report recommended that bodies such as the Independent Electoral Commission be granted autonomy. 

While noting that Botswana Government has successfully improved challenges relating to education, quality and relevancy of the curriculum still remain. 

“These challenges have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has disrupted teaching and affected funding,” states the report.

On crime and security, the report says that although Botswana is considered a peaceful nation, issues such as poverty, inequality, HIV/AIDS and high youth unemployment have the potential to become sources of conflict.

The APRM was introduced in 2003 as a mutually agreed instrument to monitor and promote governance to which African countries voluntarily accede.

It is a country’s self-monitoring tool to encourage conformity with political, economic and corporate governance values in the African continent. Botswana became a member in 2019 following a few years of President Mokgweetsi’s ascendency to the presidency.

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