Thursday, June 30, 2022

Govt accused of dragging its feet on socio-economic rights

The government is reluctant to enshrine socio-economic rights in the constitution because it fears being held accountable for people’s rights, says Uyapo Ndadi, the BONELA Director and human rights activist.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the UB legal week, Ndadi said government appears to be dodging reform on the issue by pretending the rights do not exist.

The legal week is an annual five-day celebration in which UB Law Society (UBLS) raises issues relating to human rights and law in Botswana. The theme for this year’s event was social and economic rights: a need to reform our constitution.

BONELA and UBLS declared during the ceremony that they are pushing for constitutional reform to enshrine a broad range of socio-economic rights, among them the right to food, work, education and health.

The head of UBLS, Bonolo Magora, said they have been challenged to propose constitutional reform due to difficulties faced in the enforcement of socio-economic rights in the courts of law.

Magora said the socio-economic rights are essential in this era, in the same way as civil and political rights, which found favor in our constitution.

Government’s reluctance to enshrine the rights in the constitution is reportedly affecting some human rights issues surrounding poverty, water, HIV/AIDS, with the courts of law having limited constitutional powers to legally bind the country to honour the rights.

The human rights activist said the government is at liberty to stop free education, Anti Retro Viral Therapies and other socio economic needs, since the constitution does not protecting the victims.

“There have been cases in which the government refused to renew the contracts for foreign medical doctors who were found to have contracted the HIV/AIDS,” said Ndadi. “The doctors who are required to test as a pre requisite for renewal of their contracts.”
He said a well-entrenched perception that Botswana is honouring human rights and democracy is a major challenge facing constitutional reform.

“Botswana has been embraced as a shining example of democracy but it is not shining as it seems,” he said.

However, Ndadi said he appreciated the fact that the government has been providing food baskets and free education to majority of the population in Botswana. He said the government has done fairly okay when compared to other countries. He said the country did not do what ought to be done.

The legal week was embraced by different organizations, among them the office of the ombudsman, land tribunal, Attorney Generals, and Botswana Stock Exchange.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper