A team of nine lawyers have written an open letter asking President Ian Khama to appoint a commission of enquiry to investigate sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl child particularly at primary, junior and senior secondary levels. The lawyers said they write as patriotic citizens, attorneys and men of Botswana who are concerned about the plight of the children, particularly the girl child. Their letter comes after Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Councillor for Sebina Kemmonye Amon sexually abused and impregnated 16 year old school girl. The letter addressed to President Khama is written and signed by the following lawyers; Tshiamo Rantao, Osego Garebamono, Mboki Chilisa, Kgalalelo Monthe, Kgosi Ngakaagae, Diba wa Diba, Lore Morapedi, Rueben Lekorwe and Tefo Gaongalelwe. Statistics from Ministry of Education Skills and Development shows that a total of 407 students and pupils have dropped out of school since April 2015 due to pregnancy. Of these, 16 are from primary school, 126 from junior secondary schools and 265 from senior secondary schools. The nine lawyers say it appears that these crimes against the girl child have reached a crisis level. “Mr President, these problems have to be addressed as a national crisis. Your Excellency has the powers to protect the girl child by institutingg a commission of inquiry as has been done by your predecessors when this country was faced with crises which were arguably less disheartening than this,” said the lawyers in their letter. The lawyers reminded Khama that The Commissions of Iinquiry Act makes provision for the appointment of Commissions of Iinquiry with special powers; to provide for such inquiries and matters incidental thereto.
Section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act provides that:
“It shall be lawful for the President, whenever he deems it advisable, to issue a commission appointing one or more commissioners, and authorizing such commissioners , or any quorum of them therein mentioned, to inquire into the conduct of any officer in the public service of Botswana, the conduct or management of any department of the public service, or of any public or local institution or into any matter in which an inquiry would, in the opinion of the President, be for the public welfare.”
in the exercise of his powers under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, lawyers prayed that Khama appoint the Commission, to be chaired by a sitting judge or a retired judge, to investigate the violations of the rights of the girl child.
The nine lawyers said the situation has reached the levels where it cannot just be left in the hands of the police alone. They said the police lack the special powers given to the Commissioners under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. “In any event, the report by the Commission could help the police to prosecute offenders under section 25 of the Children’s Act which criminalises sexual abuse and exploitation of children, defilement provisions in the Penal Code, and other relevant pieces of legislation,” the letter reads.
Through its terms of reference the lawyers say the Commission could also assist in formulating recommendations on law reform; strategies to assist law enforcement agencies and the effective implementation of the provisions of the Children’s Act and similar legislative enactments dealing with children. It would also assist in addressing the root causes of such abuses and coming up with measures to help curtail such abuses.
“The plight of our children needs all this country’s citizens to stand and be counted as we seek to protect and nurture the future of this country. Mr President, come to the nation’s aid. Act now,” the letter further reads. The lawyers also reminded Khama that his predecessors have in the past appointed Commissions of Inquiry when the need arose. President Sir Ketumile Masire appointed the Kgabo Commission on 12 July 1991 to investigate the land crisis in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban areas. President Festus Mogae appointed the Lesetedi Commission to investigate State Land allocations in Gaborone.