2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Botswana
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor|
|Publication Date||11 March 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Botswana, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d92c0fc.html [accessed 24 October 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008
Botswana, with a population of 1.82 million, has been a multiparty democracy since its independence in 1966. Its constitution provides for indirect election of a president and popular election of a national assembly. In 2004 the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), led by President Festus G. Mogae, returned to power in elections generally deemed free and fair. The BDP has held a majority of national assembly seats since independence. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The following human rights problems were reported during the year: abuse of detainees by security forces, poor prison conditions, lengthy delays in the judicial process, restrictions on press freedom, violence against women, and child abuse. There was societal discrimination against homosexuals, persons with HIV/AIDS, and members of the San ethnic group. Government restrictions on the right to strike and child labor were problems. The government's continued narrow interpretation of a December 2006 High Court ruling resulted in the majority of San originally relocated from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) being prohibited from returning to or hunting in the CKGR.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, police shot and killed two individuals in separate incidents. On April 14, police shot and killed an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe during a fight while attempting to arrest the individual. A police investigation concluded that the officer had not acted improperly. On June 24 police killed one man during an attempted robbery in Ramotswa. Police investigated the incident and provided the findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The DPP determined that police were not at fault in regards to the July 2006 killings of four men in an exchange of gunfire with police during an attempted robbery in Gaborone. At year's end the DPP had not yet determined whether the case should be referred to the courts. During the year authorities charged the police officer responsible for the August 2006 killing of a man fleeing the scene of a crime in Gaborone with manslaughter. Also during the year, the magistrate found that the police acted correctly in the December 2006 killing of a fugitive wanted on multiple counts of attempted robbery and rape.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, there were reports that security forces occasionally beat and abused suspects to obtain evidence or elicit confessions. Through June the Botswana Police Service (BPS) investigated five abuse complaints; four police officers were subsequently reprimanded or disciplined.
In February there was an unconfirmed report that security forces arrested, denied food to, and detained six San men for six days for illegally hunting in the CKGR (see section 5). According to the unconfirmed report, one of the men and his wife were beaten after refusing to let wildlife agents and police search their home without a warrant. The government confirmed that it arrested two of the men for illegal hunting but denied the mistreatment allegations.
In March two men facing robbery and murder charges stated that threats and beatings were used to obtain their confessions.
In February a family member stated that prison wardens beat a prisoner in December 2006; however, prison officials determined that this accusation was false.
On December 14, the magistrate postponed the trial of five soldiers and two police special constables accused of forcing several Zimbabwean detainees to perform sex acts in 2005.
There were no further developments in the 2005 case of five Kaudwane residents who claimed that officers of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks beat them during questioning about poaching, and none were expected. A government investigation committee concluded that the reports were false.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained poor due to overcrowding. In August the prison system held 6,074 prisoners, but had an authorized capacity of 3,994. Overcrowding was worst in men's prisons and constituted a serious health threat because of the country's high incidence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Rape between inmates occurred. Infrastructure improvements were made at several prisons during the year.
Voluntary and free HIV testing, peer counseling, and antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment were available to prisoners. As of September, 314 prisoners were receiving ARV treatment, and two HIV-positive pregnant prisoners were participating in a "prevention of mother-to-child transmission" program. The government did not provide ARV treatment to noncitizens in detention, but those in long-term detention could receive such treatment for free from a local nongovernmental organization (NGO). The prison commissioner had the authority to release terminally ill prisoners in the last 12 months of their sentences and to allow citizen prisoners with sentences of 12 months or less to perform "extramural" labor. As of September, the government had released 447 prisoners under the extramural labor program during the year.
Mistreatment of prisoners is illegal. As of August the Department of Prisons received no complaints that guards mistreated inmates. Thirty-nine prisoners had died in custody, primarily from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Although the Department of Prisons routinely investigated deaths in custody, the results of those inquests were not made public.
Juveniles occasionally were held with adults. Some parents requested that their incarcerated children be transferred to facilities nearer to their homes, which also resulted in the detention of juveniles with adults. Pretrial detainees and convicts were held together.
Committees appointed by the minister of labor and home affairs had visited each prison facility twice by the end of August. Committee reports were not made public. The government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to visit facilities and prisoners during the year and to conduct those visits according to those organizations' standard modalities.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The BPS, under the Ministry for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, has primary responsibility for internal security. As members of the BPS, special constables conducted patrols and made arrests but only the BPS carried out investigations. Customary or local police, under the Ministry of Local Government, have law enforcement responsibility in specified tribal areas. The special constables and local police were not adequately trained. The army is responsible for external security and has some domestic security responsibilities.
There were some developments in regards to police officers who were accused in 2006 of committing abuses. A police officer who was the subject of a July 2006 investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) was acquitted of bribery charges. The trial of two special constables arrested in August 2006 for collaborating with civilian burglars was still ongoing at year's end; both constables were dismissed from the BPS.
Police officials acknowledged that corruption was a problem at the lower ranks; some officers took advantage of illegal immigrants and traffic violators. Through June there were six cases of corruption against police officers; three cases were pending investigations, two cases were before the court, and one case resulted in a conviction and dismissal of a police officer.
During the year 12 Botswana police officers received human rights training at the International Law Enforcement Academy located in the country.
Arrest and Detention
Police officers must produce an arrest warrant except in certain cases, such as when an officer witnesses a crime being committed or discovers that a suspect is in possession of a controlled substance. A December 2007 law establishes a new intelligence agency with the power to enter premises and make arrests without warrants if the agency suspects a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Civil society criticized the law, claiming that it lacked provisions for independent oversight and posed a potential threat to civil liberties. Suspects must be informed of their rights upon arrest, including the right to remain silent, and must be charged before a magistrate within 48 hours; authorities respected these rights in practice. A magistrate may order a suspect held for 14 days through a writ of detention, which may be renewed every 14 days. There is a functioning bail system, and detention without bail is unusual except in murder cases, where it is mandatory. Detainees have the right to contact a family member and to hire attorneys of their choice; however, in practice most could not afford legal counsel. The government provides counsel for the indigent only in capital cases, although attorneys are required to accept pro bono clients.
During the year police arrested numerous San for illegally hunting in the CKGR (see section 5).
Pretrial detainees waited from several weeks to several months between the filing of charges and their trials. Pretrial detention in murder cases sometimes lasted beyond one year. Such delays were largely due to judicial staffing shortages.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice. The civil courts remained unable to provide timely trials due to severe staffing shortages and a backlog of pending cases. A 2005 report by the Office of the Ombudsman characterized the "delays in the finalization of criminal matters in all courts" as a "serious concern," particularly the delays in processing appeals.
The judiciary consists of both a civil court system that includes magistrates' courts; an industrial court; a court of appeal; and the High Court. A customary or traditional court system also exists.
Trials in the regular courts are public, although trials under the National Security Act could be held in secret. There is no jury system. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney in a timely manner, but the state provides an attorney only in capital cases. Those charged with noncapital crimes are tried without legal representation if they could not afford an attorney. As a result, many defendants were not informed of their rights in pretrial or trial proceedings. Defendants can question witnesses against them and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. There is a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to appeal. Several organizations such as The Botswana Center for Human Rights (DITSHWANELO); Botswana Law Society; and The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS provided free legal services but had limited capacity. The University of Botswana Legal Assistance Center provided free legal services for some civil, but not criminal, matters.
Customary courts often do not afford due process. Defendants do not have legal counsel, and there are no standardized rules of evidence. Defendants can confront, question, and present witnesses in customary court proceedings. Tribal judges, appointed by the tribal leader or elected by the community, determine sentences, which may be appealed through the civil court system. Many judges are poorly trained and ill-equipped to make legal decisions. The quality of decisions reached in the customary courts varied considerably and often lacked a presumption of innocence. In some cases tribal judges may issue sentences that include corporal punishment such as lashings on the buttocks.
There is a separate military court system; civilians are not tried in military courts.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, which includes a separate industrial court for most labor-related cases. Administrative remedies were not widely available.
Most civil cases were tried in customary courts. These courts handled land, marital, and property disputes.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. However, the government's continued narrow interpretation of a December 2006 High Court ruling resulted in the majority of San being prohibited from living or hunting in the CKGR. In 2002 the government forcibly resettled the remaining indigenous San and other minority members living in the CKGR who had not voluntarily left to resettlement sites outside the perimeter of the reserve. Government officials maintained that the resettlement program was voluntary and necessary to facilitate the delivery of public services, to provide socio-economic development opportunities to the San, and to minimize human impact on wildlife (see section 5).
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected freedom of speech in practice; however, the government at times attempted to limit freedom of the press and continued to dominate domestic broadcasting. The government occasionally censored stories or news sources that it deemed undesirable, and government journalists often practiced self-censorship.
The government owned and operated Botswana Press Agency dominated the media through its free, nationally distributed Daily News newspaper and through two FM radio stations. State-owned media generally featured uncritical reporting on the government and were susceptible to political interference. Opposition political parties claimed that the state media coverage heavily favored the ruling party.
Individuals could generally criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal or government interference.
The independent media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views; however, they were subject to government pressure, and the government placed strict controls on their access to government-held information. In July the minister of communications, science, and technology stated that the licenses of journalists who did not report correctly would be withdrawn. Reporters claimed that this statement was meant as a threat. According to media companies, government-owned enterprises reduced their advertising in reaction to reporting critical of those enterprises.
Radio continued to be the most broadly accessible medium. Government-owned Radio Botswana and Radio Botswana 2 covered most of the country. Privately owned Yarona FM and Gabz FM broadcast in five of the country's 10 largest towns. They produced news and current affairs programs without government interference. In May the National Broadcasting Board issued nationwide broadcasting licenses to Yarona FM and Gabz FM and to a new broadcaster, Duma FM.
Unlike in previous years, the NGO First People of the Kalahari (FPK) reported that the government would allow the FPK to have two-way radios in the CKGR provided licensing requirements were followed; however, the FPK did not complete the licensing requirements during the year. In 2005 the government stopped renewing radio licenses held by the FPK, charging that the radios were being used by poachers to help avoid wildlife patrols. The FPK said that the radios were vital for the safety of widely scattered families living in the reserve.
State-owned Botswana Television was the primary source of televised news and current affairs programs. The privately owned Gaborone Broadcasting Corporation broadcast mostly foreign programs. International television channels were available by satellite.
On March 23, the government required 17 foreigners, including seven journalists that had written articles critical of the government, to apply for visas prior to entry even though they are from countries generally exempt from this requirement.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail. Internet access was typically limited to urban areas.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
During the year the government dropped its case against San leaders Roy Sesana, Jumanda Gakelebone, and 21 other demonstrators who were arrested and released in 2005 for attempting to force their way into the CKGR. Police had forcibly dispersed and shot rubber bullets at the demonstrators during the attempt.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion. There was no known Jewish community in the country and no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2007 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected them in practice.
The government restricted the ability of indigenous San who had been relocated from the CKGR to designated settlement camps in 2002 to return to the reserve. Only the 189 San named in a 2006 High Court case, their spouses, and their minor children were permitted to live in the CKGR. A few San had never left the reserve, and some San moved back to the CKGR since the High Court's decision. Many of the 189 did not return to live in the CKGR as lack of water made the CKGR an extremely inhospitable living environment; the government was not required to provide water in CKGR per the 2006 ruling (see section 5). Visitors to the reserve, including relocated former residents not named in the 2006 case, must obtain a permit to enter the CKGR.
The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not use it.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government granted refugee status or asylum. The government's system for granting refugee status was accessible but slow. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where there is reason to believe they feared persecution. The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol and provided it to approximately 400 persons during the year. The government cooperated with the Office of the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
The government held newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from Zimbabwe, in the Center for Illegal Immigrants in Francistown until the Refugee Advisory Committee (RAC), a governmental body whose chairperson is the district commissioner of Francistown, made a status recommendation; the UNHCR was present at RAC meetings in the status of observer and technical advisor. Once persons were granted refugee status, the government transferred them to the Dukwe Refugee Camp, until their resettlement or voluntary repatriation. Refugee applicants who were unsuccessful in obtaining asylum were nonetheless allowed to remain at Dukwe if they wished, while the government referred their cases to the UNHCR for possible resettlement. Refugees in Dukwe were provided access to education and health care. They were also permitted to leave Dukwe to work outside the camp. The UNHCR criticized the detention of asylum seekers at the Center for Illegal Immigrants on the grounds that asylum seekers should not be held in detention facilities. Conditions at the center were generally adequate, but refugee children in the center did not have adequate access to education or recreation for the duration of their detention, which in some cases lasted for many months.
According to UNHCR 53 refugees from Namibia voluntarily returned to Namibia under a tripartite arrangement involving Botswana, Namibia, and UNHCR.
In December the government transferred 16 Namibian nationals who were alleged Caprivi secession leaders from a detention center to the Dukwe Refugee Camp. These individuals face criminal charges in Namibia and thus did not wish to be repatriated. In 2002 the High Court ruled out extradition for these 16 Namibians as it deemed an extradition request for the individuals from the government of Namibia to be of a political nature. The RAC had not made a determination regarding the 16 individuals' refugee status by year's end.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution and law provide citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
The country held National Assembly elections in October 2004. The BDP, led by President Mogae, won 44 of 57 competitive seats; the Botswana National Front won 12; and the Botswana Congress Party won one. The BDP has won a majority of seats in the National Assembly in every election since independence. Domestic and international observers characterized the elections as generally free and fair; however, BDP candidates had preferential access to state-owned television during much of the campaign.
The House of Chiefs acts as an advisory upper chamber to the National Assembly on any legislation affecting tribal organization and property, customary law, and the administration of customary courts. It consists of eight paramount chiefs, five chiefs chosen by the president, and 22 elected chiefs from designated regions. The paramount chiefs are members of the House of Chiefs for life, while the chosen and elected chiefs serve five-year terms. The first election based on amendments made to the constitution in 2006 to expand the House of Chiefs was held in December 2006.
There were seven women in the 61-seat National Assembly, five women in the 24-seat cabinet, three female justices on the 13-seat High Court, and four women in the expanded 35-seat House of Chiefs.
The law recognizes only the eight principal ethnic groups of the Tswana nation; however, amendments to the constitution now allow minority tribes to be represented in the expanded House of Chiefs. There were 23 members of minority tribes in the assembly, 10 in the cabinet, and five on the High Court.
Government Corruption and Transparency
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption and the government generally implemented these laws effectively.
During the year the DCEC initiated investigations into several corruption and fraud cases and filed one corruption case with the courts against an immigration officer for allegedly selling passports illegally.
During the year a government official who was the subject of a July 2006 DCEC investigation was convicted of bribery. On December 12, an immigration officer was convicted in regards to 2006 corruption case.
There are no financial disclosure laws for public officials.
The law does not provide public access to government information, and the government generally restricted such access.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases; however, unlike the previous year, the government placed visa requirements on certain NGO workers and denied a registration request from one NGO. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to NGO views on most subjects, but were far less open to the involvement of some international NGOs on the issue of the CKGR relocations.
On March 23, the government required seven journalists; six persons associated with NGOs that worked on issues related to the San, including four from the NGO Survival International; one academic; and three additional individuals to apply for visas prior to entering the country, even though they are from countries generally exempt from this requirement.
On September 10, the Registrar of Societies rejected a registration application from the NGO Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana Organization (LEGABIBO). Officials stated that the application was not approved as it was believed that LEGABIBO would be used for unlawful purposes since homosexual acts are criminal offenses in the country.
Unlike previous years, the FPK reported that the government would allow it to have two-way radios in the CKGR provided licensing requirements were followed; however, the FPK did not complete the licensing requirements during the year.
Independent local human rights groups included DITSHWANELO; Childline, a child welfare NGO; Emang Basadi, a women's rights group; and the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS. The government interacted with and provided financial support to some of these organizations.
An independent, autonomous ombudsman handled complaints of maladministration in the public sector, and the government generally cooperated with the ombudsman. The office suffered from a shortage of staff, and public awareness of the office and its services was low.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit governmental discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, nationality, creed, sex, or social status, and the government generally respected these provisions in practice. However, the law does not prohibit discrimination by private persons or entities, and there was societal discrimination against women; persons with disabilities; minority ethnic groups, particularly the San; persons with HIV/AIDS; and homosexuals.
The law prohibits rape but does not recognize the concept of spousal rape. Through September 1,537 incidents of rape were reported to the police. By law the minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison, increasing to 15 years with corporal punishment if the offender is HIV-positive, and 20 years with corporal punishment if the offender was aware of having an HIV-positive status. A person convicted of rape is required to undergo an HIV test before being sentenced. Police lacked basic investigative techniques in rape cases.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence against women, and it remained a serious problem. Through June the BPS had received 266 complaints of domestic violence. Customary law allows for husbands to treat their wives in the same manner as minor children. Under customary law husbands may use corporal punishment to discipline their wives, which was common in rural areas. Greater public awareness and improved legal protection resulted in increased reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Prostitution is illegal but was widespread. Enforcement was sporadic and complicated by vague laws that made it easier to charge violators with offenses such as unruly conduct or loitering than for prostitution. Most police enforcement took the form of periodic sweeps to clean out areas used for solicitation.
The law does not prohibit sexual harassment in the private sector, although sexual harassment committed by a public officer is considered misconduct and punishable by termination with or without forfeiture of all retirement benefits, suspension with loss of pay and benefits for up to three months, reduction in rank or pay, deferment or stoppage of a pay raise, or a reprimand. Sexual harassment continued to be a problem, particularly with men in positions of authority, including teachers, supervisors, and older male relatives.
Women legally have the same civil rights as men, but in practice societal discrimination persisted. A number of traditional laws enforced by tribal structures and customary courts restricted women's property rights and economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Marriages can occur under one of three systems, each with its own implications for women's property rights. A woman married under traditional law or in "common property" is held to be a legal minor and required to have her husband's consent to buy or sell property, apply for credit, and enter into legally binding contracts. Under an intermediate system referred to as "in community of property," married women are permitted to own immovable property in their own names, and the law stipulates that neither spouse can dispose of joint property without the written consent of the other. Women increasingly exercised the right to marriage "out of common property," in which case they retain their full legal rights as adults. Polygyny is legal under traditional law with the consent of the first wife, but it was not common.
Highly skilled urban women had growing access to entry- and mid-level white collar jobs. According to a 2007 Grant Thornton International Business Report, 74 percent of businesses employed women in senior management positions, and women occupied 31 percent of senior management positions. Women occupied many senior level positions in government agencies, such as governor of the Bank of Botswana, attorney general, minister of communication, minister of health, and director of public prosecution; however a 2007 UN report found that women's political participation was not equal to that of men. In March the Botswana Defense Force began to allow women to serve in the military.
The Women's Affairs Department in the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs had responsibility for promoting and protecting women's rights and welfare. As of September it provided approximately $112,000 (670,000 pula) to NGOs working on such issues.
The law provides for the rights and welfare of children, and the government continued to allocate the largest portion of its budget to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Local Government distributed books, food, and materials for primary education. The country also has a court system and social service apparatus designed solely for juveniles.
Education was not compulsory. The government reintroduced school fees in 2006. The fees could be waived for children whose family income fell below a certain amount. The government also provided uniforms, books, and other fees for students whose parents were destitute. Students in remote areas received two free meals a day at school. According to 2004 government statistics, approximately 88 percent of children attended school, and approximately 30 percent of children completed secondary school. Girls and boys attended school at similar rates. School attendance and completion rates were highest in urban areas, where transportation was readily available, and lowest in rural areas, where children lived far from schools and often assisted their families as cattle tenders, domestic laborers, and child care providers.
As of September boys and girls under 15 received free access to government healthcare centers.
In 2005 the UN Children's Fund estimated that there were 150,000 orphans in the country, of whom approximately 120,000 had lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. As of September the government had registered approximately 50,900 children as orphans. Once registered, these children received clothes, shelter, a monthly food basket worth between $50 (300 pula) and $92 (550 pula) depending upon location, and counseling as needed. Some relatives continued to deny inheritance rights to orphans.
No law specifically prohibits child abuse. Sex with a child below the age of 16 is known as defilement, and is prohibited and punishable by a minimum of 10 years of incarceration. Through September 284 defilement cases were reported. Sexual abuse of students by teachers was a problem, and there were frequent media reports of rape, sexual assault, incest, and defilement. Deaths from HIV/AIDS caused an increasing number of orphans. These children were sometimes sexually abused by the extended family members with whom they lived. The law considers incest a punishable act only if it occurs between blood relatives, leaving children legally unprotected from incestuous acts performed by step parents, caregivers, and the extended family.
Child marriage occurred infrequently and was largely limited to certain ethnic groups.
Child prostitution and pornography were criminal offenses. Media and NGO reports indicated that child prostitution catering to truck drivers existed along the main road linking the country with South Africa, and that many of the girls were thought to be orphans.
There were reports of child labor.
Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons, although penal code provisions cover related offenses such as abduction and kidnapping, slave trafficking, and procuring women and girls for the purpose of prostitution. There were unconfirmed reports that women and children from eastern Africa were trafficked through the country to South Africa. Traffickers charged with kidnapping or abduction could be sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. The BPS and the local police shared responsibility for combating trafficking-related crimes.
The government worked with NGOs to assist potential trafficking victims by hosting workshops on trafficking issues and by making grants to shelters that provided short- and long-term care for children that lived on the streets.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in education, employment, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. The government has a national policy that provides for integrating the needs of persons with disabilities into all aspects of government policymaking; however, the government did not mandate access to public buildings or transportation for persons with disabilities. There was some discrimination against persons with disabilities, and employment opportunities remained limited. The government funded NGOs that provided rehabilitation services and supported small-scale work projects for workers with disabilities.
The estimated 50-60,000 San in the country represented approximately 3 percent of the country's population. The San are culturally, linguistically, and by physical appearance distinct from most of the population. They remained economically and politically marginalized, and generally did not have access to their traditional land in fertile regions of the country. The San continued to be isolated; had limited access to education; lacked adequate political representation; and were not fully aware of their civil rights. In 2002 the government forcibly resettled San who were living in the CKGR from the reserve to the settlement areas of Kaudwane, New Xade, and Xere.
While the government respected the December 2006 High Court ruling on a suit filed by 189 San regarding their forced relocation, it continued to interpret the ruling to allow only the 189 actual applicants and their spouses and minor children, rather than to all San affected by the relocations to return to the CKGR (see section 2.d.). The court ruled that the applicants were entitled to return to the CKGR without entry permits and to be issued permits to hunt in designated wildlife management areas, which are not located in the CKGR. The court also ruled that the government was not obligated to resume providing services within the CKGR, and the government did not reopen water wells in the CKGR during the year. Many of the San and their supporters continued to object to the government's narrow interpretation of this ruling.
In July and September the government made multiple arrests of San for illegally hunting in the CKGR. The government denied an unconfirmed report that security forces mistreated six San men and one San woman in connection with February arrests made for illegal hunting (see section 1.c.).
A number of NGOs made efforts to promote the rights of the San or to help provide economic opportunities. However, the programs have had limited impact. In April the FPK chose to no longer be part of an NGO coalition that worked to support San rights. This decreased the effectiveness of the coalition.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS continued to be a problem, including in the workplace. The government funded community organizations that ran programs to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
The law prohibits homosexuality, but there were no reports of enforcement action by the authorities. There were, however, reports of societal discrimination and harassment of homosexuals. On September 10, the government rejected an application to register an NGO that supports homosexuals and bisexuals.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law allows workers, except for police officers, the Botswana Defense Force and the prison service, to form and join unions of their choice without excessive requirements, and workers exercised this right in practice. Most public sector associations have converted to unions. The industrial or wage economy was small, and unions were concentrated largely in the public sector, mineral extraction, and to a lesser extent in the railway and banking sectors. The law requires more than 30 employees in order to form a trade union.
Workers may not be fired for legal union-related activities; however, unregistered trade unions are not protected against antiunion discrimination. Dismissals on other grounds may be appealed to civil courts or labor officers, which rarely ordered more than two months' severance pay.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government protected this right in practice. The law provides for collective bargaining for unions that have enrolled 25 percent of a labor force.
The law severely restricts the right to strike, and virtually all strikes are ruled illegal, leaving striking workers at risk of dismissal. Legal strikes theoretically are possible only after an exhaustive arbitration process. Sympathy strikes are prohibited.
The 2006 case regarding the BCL copper mine's dismissal of 178 workers for striking had not yet been heard by the Industrial Court at year's end.
The Industrial Court case filed in 2005 regarding the dismissal of 461 workers in 2004 after a strike against Debswana, the government-DeBeers joint diamond mine venture, continued at year's end. The court had previously ruled the strike illegal.
The country's export processing zone (EPZ) exists on paper only. There are no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in EPZs.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The constitution and law prohibit forced and compulsory labor, including by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law sets the minimum age for basic employment at 14 years. Only an immediate family member may employ a child age 13 or younger, and no juvenile under age 14 may be employed in any industry without permission from the commissioner of labor. Children 14 years old who are not attending school may be employed by family members in light work that is not considered hazardous or as approved by the Labor Commissioner, but for no more than six hours per day or 30 hours per week. In industrial settings those under age 15 may only work up to three consecutive hours without the Labor Commissioner's approval, and those between ages 15 and 18 may work only up to four consecutive hours without such approval. Those under 18 may not be employed in work underground; at night; or work that is harmful to health and development, or is dangerous or immoral. The law provides that adopted children may not be exploited for labor and protects orphans from exploitation or coercion into prostitution.
According to the 2005-06 Labor Survey, slightly fewer than 38,000 children between the ages of seven and 17 were employed in 2006. Approximately half of those employed were below the age of 14. Over 60 percent of employed children worked in agriculture; 20 percent in retail trade; and 4 percent in private homes. Children also worked as domestic laborers, prostitutes, and in informal bars. Outside of supermarkets they sometimes assisted truck drivers with unloading goods and carried bags for customers. Many orphans also left school to work as caregivers for sick relatives. Most employed children worked up to 28 hours per week.
The Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs was responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies, and it was generally effective, despite limited resources for oversight of remote areas of the country. District and municipal councils have child welfare divisions, which are also responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Other involved government entities included offices with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Local Government. Oversight of child labor issues was facilitated through the Advisory Committee on Child Labor, which included representatives of various NGOs, government agencies, workers' federations, and employers' organizations. There were no prosecutions, convictions, or fines for illegal child labor during the year.
The government supported and worked with partners to conduct workshops to raise awareness on child labor. In July the government hosted a child labor conference to advocate against exploitative child labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum hourly wage for most full-time labor in the private sector was $0.58 (3.55 pula), which did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The cabinet determined wage policy based on recommendations from the National Economic, Manpower, and Incomes Committee, which consists of representatives of the government, private sector, and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions. The Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs was responsible for enforcing the minimum wage, and each of the country's districts had at least one labor inspector.
Civil service disputes were referred to an ombudsman for resolution. Private labor disputes were mediated by labor commissioners; however, an insufficient number of commissioners resulted in one- to two-year backlogs in resolving such disputes.
Formal sector jobs generally paid well above minimum wage levels. Informal sector employment, particularly in the agricultural and domestic service sectors, where housing and food were included, frequently paid below the minimum wage. There was no mandatory minimum wage for domestic workers, and the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs did not recommend a minimum wage for them.
The law permits a maximum 48-hour workweek, exclusive of overtime, which is payable at time-and-a-half. Most modern private sector jobs had a 40-hour workweek; the public sector, however, had a 48-hour workweek.
The law provides that workers who complain about hazardous conditions may not be fired, and authorities in the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs effectively enforced this right. The government's ability to enforce its workplace safety legislation remained limited by inadequate staffing and unclear jurisdictions among different ministries. Nevertheless, employers in the formal sector generally provided for worker safety.