Sunday, May 22, 2022

Govt investigates child labour in Ghanzi farms

The Ministry of Labour and home affairs has appointed a task force to investigate allegations of child labour in farms in the Ghanzi district.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Mr Ikwatlhaeng Bagopi said they decided to launch investigations into the matter after receiving complaints from residents in various kgotla meetings. He said in some instances some residents even accused government of dragging its feet in investigating the matter.

“The commissioner of Labour has assembled a task force to investigate allegations of child labour in some farms in Ghanzi. The team will start investigations on June 1,” said Bagopi.

He said the team has already identified the farms that will be investigated in and around the Ghanzi area.

Commenting on the issue, Onkemetse Montsheki, Psycho-Social Coordinator of Child Line Botswana, welcomed the move saying allegations of child abuse in farms have always been there but were never investigated.

She added that Childline highlighted issues of child labour in Botswana in a report that it submitted to International Labour Organization, titled “towards the elimination of the worst forms of child labour (TECL).”

She said their investigations, which were centred in the North East, unearthed instances of child labour where children were employed as farm workers or exploited for commercial sex.

She added that there is a possibility that child labour exists in other areas such as Ghanzi, even though no studies had been conducted as of yet.

“We are still receiving reports of child labour in our office. So this investigation is very welcome,” she said.

The Childline report to the ILO highlighted the need for specific legislation and policy on child labour in Botswana. However, the report admitted that Botswana has legislation and policies which impact directly and indirectly on the issue.

“While the constitution is silent on specific protection of children, the Employment Act (CAP 47:01) which came into effect in 1984 provides wide protection to children and young people in employment,” read the report.

While the Employment Act prohibits employment of children aged 15-18 years, there are exceptions, as it permits employment of a child who is 14 years but not attending school to do light work that is not harmful to his/her health. The act allows for a 14 year old to be employed by a family member if such work is approved by the Commissioner of Labour. 

The Act further states that a child of 14 years who is in school may be similarly employed during vacations.

However, Childline expressed concern that despite such laws existing where children are employed there is no monitoring of children’s work either within or outside the family is virtually non-existent and there has been no official definition of light work.

The report further stated that poverty is a significant cause of child labour and extreme poverty means children are prepared to engage in more harmful and detrimental forms of work. Poverty remains a significant problem in Botswana with almost 20 % of the population living below the poverty datum line and with income poverty highly concentrated in the country’s remotest areas.┬á

The report also emphasised that children in the rural and remote areas comprise the largest5 group of children who have never attended school who have dropped out with the highest drop out rates in the poorest rural districts of Gantsi, Kgalagadi and North West.

It stated that San children especially experience severe poverty with low levels of education and literacy.

It states that some of these children stay with their families on private farms and cattle posts where they are vulnerable to child labour while others migrate between farms and settlements. Most of the children according to the report are faced by problems in accessing education.

Some members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi have expressed concern that commercial farmers in Ghanzi are increasingly exploiting Basarwa children, as government faces difficulties in curbing child labour in the farms. Kgosi Mbao Kahiko for Ghanzi West Region had ealier expressed worry that┬á “A majority of the cattle farms, which belong to the Whites, are usually locked, a situation which has made them difficult to be accessed.”

Kgosi Kahiko expressed at one of Nto Ya Dikgosi meetings.  Some traditional leaders like Boteti Region , Kgosi Oreagetse Machilidzqa had stated that exploitation of children in Ghanzi farms is a common practice from the past which government has turned a blind eye on it.

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