Scores of unemployed youth who had sought to petition Parliament on Monday were brutally whipped with sjamboks by police officers whilst Members of Parliament turned a blind eye.
Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe rejected pleas by among others Gaborone Central Member of Parliament Phenyo Butale to adjourn for a few minutes to address the youth who had gathered in front of Parliament.
The youth who identified themselves as members of the Unemployment Movement were holding placards calling on the government to create employment for hundreds of unemployed youth across the country.
But Kokorwe said Parliament could not adjourn because there were some standing orders that had to be followed.
Addressing the youthful petitioners, Butale said Kokorwe informed Parliament that in order for the House to adjourn a member should have brought an urgent motion.
After Butale had addressed the petitioners, a senior police officer, Assistant Commissioner Maruping issued an instruction that the protesters should disperse in less than 10 minutes.
Petitioners protested insisting that they were holding a peaceful demonstration. Maruping then called for more police officers from the riot squad to beef up those who were already at the Parliament grounds.
In a short while the police officers arrived at the scene in large numbers brandishing sjamboks. At the insistence of Senior Superintendent Emanuel Dikgomo, a considerable number of the members of the Unemployment Movement were whipped while others were arrested and whisked to the Central Police Station.
Some of the protesters fled into Parliament buildings but the police officers followed in hot pursuit and pushed them out of the Parliamentary buildings while debates were ongoing.
At this juncture, Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi also requested Kokorwe to adjourn Parliament so that the House could appraise itself on what was happening. Kokorwe refused.
Earlier on Butale had assured the protesters that there was nothing illegal about holding a peaceful demonstration in front of Parliament.
“What you are doing is freedom of expression which is enshrined in the Constitution,” said Butale.
He said the presence of Police officers at the scene where the protesters assembled proves that the government was turning Botswana into a police state.
“We have made efforts to have Parliament adjourned because we argued that we cannot continue with Parliament debates as if it is business as usual. But the Speaker would not hear of it,” he said.
“Police cannot stop you from marching or assembly in front of Parliament, instead they should be there to protect you,” said Butale.
The Telegraph has learnt that two petitioners have been seriously injured but they have been denied medical attention as they are still in police custody.
Following the arrest of the protesters the police cordoned off the open space in front of Parliament and members of the public were advised to use other routes.
The protesters proceeded and went to assemble before the Central Police Station where their colleagues were detained. As further drama unfolded as a cameraman for the etv television was arrested. Police demanded that he delete a footage that he had taken at Parliament during their scuffle with the protesters. At the time of going to press attorney Gosego Lekgowe was at the police station attempting to secure the release of the photojournalist and some petitioners. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Dithapelo Keorapetse said he was disappointed that police could respond with such brutality to a peaceful gathering.
He said the world over it is allowed to assemble in front of Parliament.
“There was no need to arrest the petitioners because even the basic principle of policing has not been violated,” he said.
Also addressing the petitioners, Gabane/Mankgodi MP Pius Mokgware urged them to be resolute and recruit other unemployed youth to join the movement. He assured the petitioners that he and other MPs who believe in their cause would rally behind them.