Thursday, March 4, 2021

Botswana refuses to avail medication to life-threatened foreign prisoners

Lobatse High Court judge, Maruping Dibotelo, has ordered the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation to recommend to the Prisons’ Parole Board that Thabo Khandala, an inmate and a TB drug-resistant patient, be released on parole.

Kandala is serving two ten-year jail terms running concurrently for rape.
Wearing a mask, Khandala appeared unrepresented before Dibotelo and appealed against both his sentence and conviction.

Before this, a doctor, acting for the Department, had told the Court that according to assessment done on him, Kandala was fit to stand trial but Dibotelo thought otherwise and ordered that Kandala be recommended for parole by the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation Parole Board.

It is not known if Khandala is the only prisoner suffering from the deadly disease in the country‘s prisons.

Last year, there were conflicting reports about an inmate whose nationality was disputed as some sources within Prisons and Rehabilitation said he was a Motswana whilst others said he was a Zimbabwean.
Sources said that the prisoner was leaving in isolation from other prisoners but “was so well that he was growing vegetables”.

This is the second case of a TB drug-resistant patient to reach the High Court.

In the first case, Mthandazo Sibanda, a Zimbabwean citizen, was picked up from Mahalapye where he was working and locked up in isolation in Gaborone Central Prison. He then challenged his imprisonment but authorities said they were doing so to safeguard the health of the society.

Sibanda then requested to be given drugs for his illness but the government declined, saying that it could only dispense such drugs to its citizens.

Sibanda took the matter to the High Court where the Court concurred that he be given treatment. The government, however, still declined to do so, insisting that it could only do so if Sibanda were a citizen. Finally, Sibanda withdrew his case and was deported to his home country of Zimbabwe.

After Sibanda’s return to Zimbabwe, Botswana’s AIDS activists, BONELA, released a press statement saying that they welcomed efforts underway in Zimbabwe to provide Sibanda with the drugs he needed for his ailment.

In a related case of medical treatment for foreign prisoners, the government of Botswana is reported to be providing foreign prisoners with all other medication, except medicines for critical and life threatening diseases such as HIV|AIDS.

A case in point is that of Malawian George Gebazo, a convicted stolen-car dealer who was sentenced to a five-year jail term after being extradited from South Africa.

Gebazo pleaded with the then Chief Magistrate, Lot Moroka, that he be given treatment as he alleged to have received same in South Africa, where he was held before being extradited to Botswana.

Legal observers say that this is a very cruel way of handling matters as it is “like condemning such people to death”.
“If they cannot provide them with medication, they should then deport them to their countries of origin to serve their sentences,” said one legal source.

The Catholic Church is currently understood to be trying to source medication and ARV drugs for foreign prisoners.


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