Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Botswana spurns rights group’s advice to reduce dictatorial powers of the presidency

Botswana has rejected recommendations by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to reduce the dictatorial powers of the president, a report passed to the Sunday Standard has revealed.

In a report titled Implementation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Botswana reveals that the ACHPR sought “information on action taken to balance the President’s Powers in relation to some human rights issues.”

Botswana responded that “at the moment Botswana has no plans to subject Presidential Powers as derived from section 47 (4) of the Constitution to judicial control.”

The section provides that the executive power of the republic vests in the President of the Constitution of Botswana and he shall act in his own deliberate judgment and he is not obliged to take or follow any advice tendered to him by any person or authority (Section 47(2).

This section also came under scrutiny in Justice Key Dingake’s paper titled “Constitutional Law of Botswana” wherein he argued that Section 47 effectively authorises the President to rule single handedly and/or authorises dictatorship and that it is difficult to comprehend the wisdom behind this provision considering that in Botswana the President is not directly elected.

On other topical issues, the ACHPR also recommended that Botswana Government should make a statement detailing her position on who may enter the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the conditions of entry. The African human rights body also recommended that the Botswana Government should take measures to consult with all the communities and access to the CKGR is facilitated.

“There is one Government borehole in Mothomelo which the residents are not using. They declined Government’s offer of equipping the borehole,” reads the report from Botswana Government. The report further states that following the Court Order, the residents of CKGR drilled four boreholes on their own; two boreholes in Metsiamanong were blank. The borehole in Molapo had higher concentrates of total dissolved solids (TDS), higher than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels. “There is another borehole in Mothomelo, which is operational and solar powered as well as another still in Mothomelo which the residents are not using.”

ACHPR also sought “information on measures taken by Botswana to end corporal punishment in schools and prisons.”

Botswana Government stated that “as soon as the concluding observations were officially received, the government took two initiatives with regard to corporal punishment in the education system ‘home environment, namely exploring the possibility of adopting reformative measures to incorporate parental participation in the discipline and punishment of the child while corporal punishment were initiated with the support of UNICEF-Botswana country office.

With regard to corporal punishment in prisons, consultations are ongoing within the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security (MDJS) on a possible revision of the legislation regarding the functioning of the Prisons in Botswana.

The ACHR also took Botswana to task for lack of an organ that is mandated to look into human rights violations.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.