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22 November 2022
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined seventeenth to twenty-second periodic report of Botswana, with Committee Experts commending the State on providing HIV/AIDS treatment to foreign citizens, and asking questions on evictions of indigenous persons from ancestral lands and minority language education.
Régine Esseneme, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that it was pleasing to note that since 2020, all non-nations were able to access preventative treatment for HIV/AIDS. How many non-citizens with HIV/AIDS lived in Botswana?
Ms. Esseneme referenced a High Court decision determining that the eviction of the San/Basarwa from their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the refusal to give them hunting licences was illegal and unconstitutional. Why did the police prevent the San/Basarwa from carrying out their traditional ancestral activities?
Ms. Esseneme further noted that the teaching of ethnic minority languages in schools remained prohibited, and children from minority groups, particularly the Basarwa and Wayeyi, were the most numerous in poor boarding schools, where the Setswana language was imposed on them. The school results of these children were poor. What measures were in place to provide minority children with a better-quality education?
The delegation said that one case decided at the Court of Appeal had led to free antiretroviral therapy services being provided to foreign prison inmates in 2015. The Government had since expanded antiretroviral therapy and related services to all foreign nationals. Treatment was provided for free as soon as HIV/AIDS was detected. Around 700 foreign nationals and 20 refugees were receiving such treatment.
Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Government had taken note of the High Court’s ruling on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and provided support beyond the extent of the ruling. It supported the education of children of the indigenous inhabitants of the Reserve, and supported the livelihoods of the inhabitants through the provision of social services. There was no systematic harassment of these citizens by the police.
Dumezweni Meshack Mthimkhulu, Assistant Minister, Ministry for State President and head of the delegation, said that the Government had approved the language policy of 2022, which would introduce the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in early childhood learning from 2023. Thirteen languages, including sign language, had been approved for use in the first phase. The delegation added that there were enough teaching materials to facilitate education in these languages, and teachers’ aides who could instruct in these languages were being hired from the community.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Esseneme extended thanks to the delegation for providing clear responses to the Committee’s questions. Ms. Esseneme wished Botswana further success in integrating its communities, so that all communities, including non-Tswana communities, could equally access justice, services and rights.
Mr. Meshack Mthimkhulu, in his concluding remarks, thanked the Committee for the thorough, focused and rich discussion on the steps Botswana had taken to implement the Convention. The Government of Botswana was committed to ending racial discrimination. Future measures such as the planned comprehensive review of the Constitution and new legislation would further strengthen protections from discrimination. The State party would work to implement the Committee’s concluding observations through its dedicated follow-up mechanism.
The delegation of Botswana consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; Ministry of Justice; National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency; Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture; Ministry of Defence and Security; Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs; and the Permanent Mission of Botswana to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Botswana after the conclusion of its one hundred and eighth session on 2 December. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and eighth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 23 November at 3 p.m. to consider the combined ninth to tenth periodic report of Georgia (CERD/C/GEO/9-10).
The Committee has before it the combined seventeenth to twenty-second periodic report of Botswana (CERD/C/BWA/17-22).
DUMEZWENI MESHACK MTHIMKHULU, Assistant Minister, Ministry for State President of Botswana and head of the delegation, said Botswana was firmly opposed to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related intolerances. The Government genuinely implemented the Convention both in letter and in spirit.
The Constitution of Botswana guaranteed equality for all people. It allowed any person who alleged that its provisions were being contravened to apply to the High Court for redress. The definition of racial discrimination, found in several pieces of legislation, criminalised discrimination on the grounds of descent, nationality or ethnic origin. The Cybercrime and Computer Related Crimes Act defined racist or xenophobic material as any material which advocated, promoted or incited hatred, discrimination or violence against any person or group of persons based on race, colour, descent, nationality, ethnic origin, tribe or religion. Botswana had adopted its Vision 2036 strategy, which reaffirmed the State’s commitment to combat all forms of racial discrimination.
The Government had established a new Ministry of Justice with the sole responsibility for the justice portfolio in April 2022. The new Ministry now housed the Human Rights Unit, which was the national focal point for the coordination of human rights issues. The Government established the National Human Rights Coordination Committee in 2020, a forum for meaningful engagement between the Government and non-governmental organizations. A notable milestone of the Committee was the draft comprehensive human rights strategy and national action plan which, among others, drove the implementation of treaty body recommendations as well as timely reporting.
Botswana acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in July 2021. To domesticate the Convention, Parliament approved the Revised Disability Policy and the drafting of the Disability Bill was ongoing. An amendment of the Constitution of Botswana had also been prepared that expanded representation and inclusion of all Batswana in the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi (House of Chiefs).
The 2019 Creative Industry Strategy provided opportunities for the flourishing of diverse cultures, cultural preservation and participation by all people of Botswana. Repository centres for the respective cultures of Botswana were being constructed. The Government had also approved the language policy of 2022, which would introduce the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in early childhood learning from 2023. Thirteen languages, including sign language, had been approved for use in the first phase.
In 2021, the Government developed the draft national action plan to end statelessness in Botswana. To operationalise the plan, a draft Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was being finalised. All asylum seekers were housed in Dukwi Refugee Camp while their claims for asylum were being assessed. In addition, housing units had been constructed at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants to accommodate families of rejected asylum seekers while they were processed for repatriation by immigration officials.
RÉGINE ESSENEME, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, welcomed the introduction of recent legislation prohibiting discrimination, the strengthening of institutions and the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations, including the introduction of a law on chieftaincy and the creation of a Human Rights Department within the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The Committee further welcomed the State party’s open invitation to visits from Special Procedure mandate holders.
Ms. Esseneme asked if there were plans to amend the Constitution to include descent and national origin as grounds for discrimination. Would the Penal Code be reviewed to harmonise national laws with the Convention? What was the State party doing to combat indirect racial discrimination hidden in measures that were unfavourable to certain categories of persons or groups of persons, such as the national ban on hunting decided in 2014?
How were international legal instruments integrated into domestic law? What activities were carried out by the Human Rights Department regarding raising public awareness of the Convention? What was the relationship between the Human Rights Unit and the Inter-Ministerial Treaty Committee, two bodies that were now being established? When would these bodies start operating? What actions had been taken by the State party to ensure the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee and what were the results? What were some examples of decisions in which the Convention had been applied by judges?
In the judicial system, reportedly only Tswana customary law was applied and imposed on ethnic minorities in the courts in civil matters and in the Kgotla. Tswana traditional leaders tried criminal cases even though they were not trained in the application of the Criminal Code. What kind of cases were tried by each court, and what legislation applied in different jurisdictions? What qualifications were needed for officials dispensing justice in customary courts? Could appeals be launched regarding the decisions of civil and customary courts? In the event of a discrepancy between a domestic norm and an international legal instrument, which rule was applied? Did redress provided to victims in the Code of Criminal Procedure apply to cases of racial discrimination? The legal aid mechanism established in 2013 was granted only in civil proceedings. What was the scope of this legal aid? What were the conditions to be fulfilled to benefit from it? Why did legal aid not apply in criminal proceedings?
The Committee welcomed awareness-raising for young people in schools on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. What education on human rights was provided to students? What was the content of the human rights training modules for law enforcement officials? How many staff had been trained? How were magistrates and lawyers trained on the prohibition of discrimination and the application of the Convention?
The Cybercrime and Computer Crime Act did not appear to cover the full scope of dissemination of racist ideas and speech. How were racial hate speech and incitement to racial discrimination in the media and on the Internet dealt with in practice?
Could the State party provide the Committee with more recent statistics on the ethnic make-up of the State?
The Committee noted the steps taken by the Government to implement the High Court decision in the case of Roy Sesana and others v. Attorney General, which determined that the eviction of the San/Basarwa from their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the refusal to give them hunting licences was illegal and unconstitutional. Why did the police prevent the San/Basarwa from carrying out their traditional ancestral activities? What measures were in place to share the profits of mining activities on the Reserve with the San/Basarwa, and to protect them from the invasion of elephants?
What measures were being taken to ensure that the ethnic groups living in the Okavango Delta were lifted out of poverty and did not lose their cultural practices? What compensation was provided to the San and Hambukushu people of Tsodilo Mountain, who were relocated following the inscription of Tsodilo Mountain as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2001? What was the difference between tribal land, freehold land and state land? What were the requirements for land allocation, and how were people made aware of the land allocation process? What was the composition of the Land Councils?
MAZALO TEBIE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about the status of the draft law on the establishment of a national human rights institution that was to be tabled in Parliament in 2020. Had such an institution been established? The Human Rights Department and the Ombudsman's Office were responsible for raising public awareness of human rights and racism. What awareness-raising activities on the Convention and racial discrimination had been organised and what were their outcomes? The Committee welcomed measures promoting tolerance, understanding and dialogue through Botswana's Vision 2016 programme. What had been the impacts of these different measures?
How did the State party aim to raise awareness among all social strata about their human rights and fundamental freedoms, considering that radio and television stations broadcast only in English and Setswana and community radio was not permitted? What measures were being taken to regulate the media? How did the State promote awareness among media professionals of their responsibility not to propagate prejudices? How many journalists from both the public and private media have been brought before the Press Council, and what were the sanctions imposed on them? How effectively did media outlets cover rural areas? Were indigenous peoples, minorities and women appropriately represented in the media? Why had a plan to transform the state broadcaster into a more independent public service been rejected?
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said that the previous concluding observations raised four issues. The first, the revision of discriminatory elements of the Chieftains’ Act, had been addressed through the repeal of the act. The second concerned the return of the San/Basarwa people to their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. More information was needed on efforts made in this regard. The third concerned providing primary education to tribes in mother tongue languages. The Committee required more information on efforts made to provide this education. The fourth concerned measures to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, especially within refugee communities. Again, Mr. Kut called for more information on measures to implement this recommendation.
A Committee Expert said that several concerns had been raised after authorities expelled Zimbabwean refugees who had been in the State since 2008. Could more information be provided? Oil drilling had a serious impact on the lives of indigenous persons. Had indigenous persons been consulted on such projects? What measures were in place to protect women and girls from COVID-19 infection? What measures had the State party taken to consult with civil society in preparing the State party report?
Another Committee Expert called for more information on how rural and urban areas were organised. Were education services provided in rural areas? Was modern or customary justice applied in rural areas? What vision did Botswana have regarding environmental conservation?
One Committee Expert said that the non-discrimination provision within the Constitution was not in line with the Convention, as it did not apply to persons who were not citizens of Botswana. Discrimination between private actors was also not covered by the Constitution and criminal law. Had a revision been discussed? What measures were in place to increase reporting of hate speech? Were racist motives considered an aggravating factor by courts?
A Committee Expert asked whether all recognised tribes were admitted in the House of Chiefs in Botswana.
The delegation said that article three of the Constitution had not been amended, but it sufficiently covered the rights enshrined in the Convention. The Constitution explicitly prohibited discrimination based on race. The Public Service Act criminalised discrimination on the grounds of race, origin, sex, colour, creed and other factors. Other legislation, such as the Children’s Act, also prohibited various forms of discrimination. The Government was currently considering a revised version of the Constitution. A Law Reform Unit, which had been formed within the Attorney General’s Chambers, was assessing the compliance of domestic legislation with the Convention and other international norms.
International law did apply in Botswana. In one case, the High Court had overturned a Government decision not to permit the registration of a civil society organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, citing international law on discrimination. Other similar cases recognised foreigners’ right to access treatment for HIV/AIDS and provided redress for a victim of workplace discrimination based on race. Botswana did not assess many cases of hate speech as it was a tolerant nation.
The Inter-Ministerial Treaty Committee examined all international treaties, whereas the Human Rights Unit examined human rights treaties specifically and gave recommendations to the Government on human rights legislation. These bodies co-existed and mutually reinforced each other.
Human rights education was conducted, but not in a systematic manner. The Government planned to make human rights education more systematic. Issues of racial intolerance and xenophobia were considered in current training courses. Human rights education and awareness campaigns were positioned as a priority within the Government’s draft human rights strategy.
The bill establishing the national human rights institute was acceded to in 2021. The Ombudsman’s Office was currently being restructured into the national human rights institute. Progress in this regard was at an advanced stage.
Botswana was working to expand the provision of legal aid through a project that was currently in a pilot stage. Nationality was included as a tenet under which discrimination could be based within the Cybercrime and Computer Crime Act.
Non-citizens, including refugees, could access anti-retroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS, and prevention therapy for mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
Botswana had detained 373 Zimbabwean asylum seekers between 2018 and 2020. The United Nations Refugee Agency had assessed their asylum claims and found that most did not qualify for international protection. All who did not qualify for international protection were repatriated to Zimbabwe in 2020.
The Government had taken note of the High Court’s ruling regarding the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and provided support beyond the extent of the ruling. It supported the education of children of the indigenous inhabitants of the Reserve, and supported the livelihoods of the inhabitants through the provision of social services.
All persons were free to report cases of discrimination. Between 2017 and 2019, four allegations of racial discrimination had been reported to police, all of which could not be pursued in courts for various reasons.
ATHALIAH LESIBA MOLOKOMME, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Tswana customary law was not imposed on non- Tswana speaking groups. In addition to courts that applied common law, there were lower and higher customary courts in each region that applied customary law, and the national Customary Court of Appeal that applied the Constitution. There was no generic customary law, with different laws applied in different regions. Customary courts had limited criminal jurisdiction, and were required to follow rules of procedure to ensure the presumption of innocence. Other countries’ laws were not applied in Botswana, but the decisions of courts in other countries were referenced by the State’s courts. The burden of proof in civil cases was on the State.
The amendment to the law on the House of Chiefs had been enacted. There were now no “principal tribes” and all tribes were represented in the House. Botswana had tried to ensure equality of voice.
The Botswana Language Programme would be implemented in 2023. Under this programme, 13 languages would be introduced in primary education instruction, allowing for education to be provided in the mother tongues of most of the population. Sufficient resources had been allocated to realising this programme.
Courts decided whether to recognise communities as tribes through a standardised process.
In response to a follow-up question on the impact of colonialism on the perception of languages, the delegation said that it was difficult for some generations to accept that all languages were equal. However, the Government was promoting the benefits of mother tongue education. All cultures and languages were allowed to flourish in Botswana. There were several communities that were documenting their languages and practices for the purposes of transmission.
Women and girls were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, and Botswana was not an exception. There had been a concerning increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic, and the Government had implemented several interventions in response.
RÉGINE ESSENEME, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked whether the provision of social services to indigenous persons, such as those living on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, was an obligation of the State. Did customary courts apply criminal law in some cases? Did the State party pay for the provision of legal aid, and on what basis did it decide whether or not to provide legal aid? Was legal aid provided in criminal cases?
MAZALO TEBIE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the Committee was very happy to hear that the bill establishing the national human rights institute had been approved. What would the composition of the institution be, and how would it interact with other institutions?
A Committee Expert asked whether the State party had returned any land in the context of colonisation? Were there customary laws that were applied regarding land tenure issues?
One Committee Expert asked how many mother tongues there were in Botswana, and whether the State party could prepare textbooks and other materials in mother tongue languages by 2023. Were parents supportive of mother tongue education?
Another Committee Expert said that a licence had been granted to a Canadian developer for a project in the Okavango Delta. Were the local indigenous communities consulted regarding this decision? Was reform envisaged to legislation on recognition of indigenous tribes? Did the State party intend to introduce legislation protecting human rights defenders, and legislation abolishing the death penalty?
A Committee Expert asked for information on whether revisions to the Constitution would address the Committee’s concerns regarding the definition of discrimination. The shifting of the burden of proof was an important element of legislation across the world. It was used to put the burden of proof of non-discrimination on employers in alleged workplace discrimination cases, for example. Did Botswana include this principle in its legislation?
One Committee Expert asked how traditional systems of justice interacted with modern systems in Botswana.
RÉGINE ESSENEME, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the most widely spoken language was Setswana at 76.6 per cent followed by Kalanga at 6.2 per cent and that English, which was the official language, came only fourth at 3.1 per cent. What languages were used in education from kindergarten to university? How were development policies designed to ensure that the needs of all social strata, including national and ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, were considered? How did the State assess the impact of its actions on the population in the absence of ethnic data in the population census? The teaching of ethnic minority languages in schools remained prohibited, and children from minority groups, particularly the Basarwa and Wayeyi, were the most numerous in poor boarding schools, where the Setswana language was imposed on them. The school results of these children were poor. What measures were in place to provide minority children with a better-quality education? What language was used in schools in Ghanzi District?
The Committee noted the positive impact of the Government's actions on the Botswana population in remote areas in the areas of education, housing, employment, food and recreation. What was the impact of these actions on non-Tswana national and ethnic minorities in general? Did some communities lack space for agriculture and livestock because of Government restrictions on land use?
Botswana had a very high HIV prevalence rate, but awareness-raising on HIV prevention and treatment was done only in Setswana and English. What measures had the State party taken to reach out to ethno-linguistic minority populations?
The Ju'hoansi, a Khoisan tribe living in western Ngaamiland, was one of the poorest in the country. Public housing was reportedly provided to the Khoisans, but most of the community would prefer to sleep outdoors and live in their traditional huts. Their culture was said to have disintegrated. What measures would the State party take to put an end to this situation, promote the development and protection of indigenous cultures and ways of life, and integrate indigenous persons into public development policies?
Sources indicated that only four minority tribes were represented in the House of Chiefs in addition to the eight Tswana tribes. It seemed that the Bogosi Act of 2008 was not being implemented by the Government. How had the Act contributed to promoting the recognition and participation of all tribes? What were the criteria for determining that a community was a tribe? How many non-Tswana communities had been recognised as tribes? The Constitution made all Tswana Tribe Chiefs statutory members of the House of Chiefs, while other Chiefs needed to be elected to sit on it, and gave Tswana Chiefs higher status than others.
Many of the country's languages and cultures were allegedly endangered because non-Tswana were denied the right to install their leaders. Were there plans to change this? On what types of bills was the House of Chiefs consulted? Did the Government take their opinions into account? Did the Government recognise the practices of other ethnic groups, such as the San/Basarwa? What mechanisms were in place to enable cultural mixing in Botswana? How had Vision 2016 addressed the needs of minority groups, and how would Vision 2036 address them? What was the representation of the different ethnic groups, particularly Tswana and non-Tswana, in Government, in public office and in elected positions?
What had been the outcome of a 2019 study of stateless persons and internally displaced persons? What was the status of new immigration and citizenship laws? What measures were being taken to provide judicial protection to refugees and asylum seekers who were declared "illegal migrants"? What support was provided to Zimbabwean migrants who were victims of stigmatisation and police abuse? How many cases of racial discrimination against refugees had been recorded?
Non-citizens were excluded from free HIV/AIDS treatment. What was the rationale for this? How many non-citizens with HIV/AIDS lived in Botswana? Non-citizens also paid school fees from kindergarten to secondary education while school was free for 10 years for nationals. Only nationals benefited from secondary and higher education grants. Why did the State party discriminate against non-citizens regarding access to education?
Most Botswanans lived in Francistown, but there were welcome plans to develop rural areas. What was the progress of development of these areas?
MAZALO TEBIE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that State support could undermine the lifestyle of the Ju'hoansi people. What measures were in place to support the lifestyle of these people?
What had the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic been on non-nationals, including refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and migrants? What measures were in place to protect them from the pandemic and related discrimination, and mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on these groups?
Ms. Tebie commended the State party for having taken measures to combat human trafficking. Courts could order persons convicted of trafficking in persons to make restitution or compensate the victim. Four cases of trafficking in persons had been adjudicated in the reporting period and the perpetrators sentenced to fines. What support had been provided to victims? Why had no redress been provided to victims of trafficking since the entry into force of the Anti-Trafficking Act 2014? What follow-up actions were taken on trafficking cases by the Commission on the Prohibition of Trafficking in Human Beings? What was the composition of the Commission and what other activities did it carry out? Could the delegation provide information on trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation?
Who were the “miracle babies” referred to in the section of the State report on trafficking in children? Could the State party provide data on complaints of trafficking, investigations conducted, sentences passed, and reparation and rehabilitation provided to victims? What awareness campaigns on trafficking were being conducted? How did the State party protect victims from retaliation?
Some Zimbabwean women who voluntarily migrated to Botswana were subjected to involuntary domestic servitude by their employers. Families sometimes employed domestic workers without proper work permits, failed to pay adequate wages, and restricted or controlled the movement of their employees. What measures were in place to end this mistreatment? Had the State signed any cooperation agreements with other countries for the investigation, repression and extradition of suspected traffickers and the protection and rehabilitation of victims? What progress had been made on amending the Botswana Child Adoption Act of 1952? What were the ethnicities and origins of adopted children in Botswana?
What measures was the State party taking to protect foreign women in detention centres? Was the Government implementing legislation to allow both men and women with Botswanan nationality who were married to foreigners to pass their nationality on to their children?
Another Committee Expert said that non-citizen women who were detained were reportedly targeted and abused by police. Had complaints from non-citizen women been investigated, and if so, what were the outcomes?
The delegation said the Vision 2036 strategy recognised the rights of indigenous persons and promoted respect for their culture and values. Botswana continued to prioritise the promotion of mother tongue languages. The Vision 2036 also promoted equal treatment of diverse cultures, beliefs and values.
There were 29 languages in Botswana, and the Government was implementing a policy encouraging the use of mother tongues in primary education from 2023. There were enough teaching materials to facilitate education in these languages, and teachers’ aides who could instruct in these languages were being hired from the community. Radio and television programmes were produced in various languages. The Government promoted community cultural events and participated in regular dialogue with community groups, and held celebrations on the National Cultural Day and for other cultural events.
ATHALIAH LESIBA MOLOKOMME, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the State’s colonial history had led to a strong belief that people should not be identified based on the colour of their skin. Such data had been used in the past to marginalise people of African descent. Thus, the Government did not collect data on ethnicity.
The delegation said that one case decided at the Court of Appeal had led to free antiretroviral therapy services being provided to foreign prison inmates in 2015. The Government had since expanded antiretroviral therapy and related services to all foreign nationals. Treatment was provided for free as soon as HIV/AIDS was detected. Around 700 foreign nationals and 20 refugees were receiving such treatment.
Awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS targeted populations affected by the virus, including sex workers and ethnic minorities. Awareness work was localised. Civil society networks were in place to support civil society to craft messages on HIV/AIDS in local languages. The Ministry of Education provided comprehensive sexual education in schools. The education programme covered sexual health, HIV/AIDS prevention, and prevention of stigma of people with HIV/AIDS.
The remote area development programme promoted policies to develop regional areas and services in those areas. The Government regularly monitored the implementation of the programme. Different programmes were in place for health, land, infrastructure, education and other areas. To date, the Government had built around 250 houses for the needy, and encouraged the enrolment of around 3,000 children in primary schools. Every child had the right to education, and the Government upheld the principle of the best interests of the child. There were 758 primary schools in Botswana spread across the different regions, while 24 boarding schools had been established to provide education and services to children living in remote areas. Around 7,000 students were enrolled in the poverty education programme, which supported access to education and livelihoods for poor families.
No country was able to provide everything to everybody, and the Botswana Government focused on providing services to citizens. However, the Government had been open to expanding services to foreign citizens. The State had very little sources of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it needed to provide additional support to residents, putting a further strain on resources.
The programme for orphans and vulnerable children supported these children to access tertiary education by lowering entry points. Old age pensions were provided to all residents aged 65 and over, including foreign citizens. The law on access to land did not discriminate on who could apply for land tenure. No persons were excluded from land tenure boards.
Consultations were conducted regarding the development project in the Okavango Delta, although compensation had not been paid yet. No one was excluded from receiving the benefits of mining projects. Mining companies contributed to building schools and hospitals in areas where needed.
There were people from five countries registered as asylum seekers, the majority being from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Refugees had travelled to the country to obtain education and settlement. Refugees had the right to seek redress in courts. There were cases concerning the detention of rejected asylum seekers and the rejection of refugee status that had been brought to the Court of Appeal. In the 2021 case concerning the rejection of international protection, the persons concerned were provided with a repatriation package and transported back to their countries of origin.
There had been no complaints related to racist activities or racial discrimination registered by the managers of refugee camps. However, there had been complaints regarding offensive language. Refugee committees had been established to assess issues related to refugees and convey recommendations to camp managers. New legislation on immigration and international protection was currently being considered by the Government.
There were no recorded complaints of police abusing Zimbabwean citizens in prisons or in other locations.
Four convictions had been passed down out of 19 trafficking in persons cases. Significant efforts had been made to raise awareness of the issue of trafficking in persons, which had led to an increase in the detection of cases of trafficking. The Government was currently reviewing legislation on trafficking to give stricter penalties, including imprisonment, to offenders. A national action plan on combatting trafficking was in place. The police, the Attorney-General, other Government bodies and a non-governmental organization were represented on the committee established to investigate trafficking incidents. There had been two recorded cases of trafficking of women and girls, including one case of labour trafficking. Shelters were provided to victims of trafficking, which provided rehabilitation and other support services. There had been 497 adopted children recorded in the State since 2015.
The Ombudsman Amendment Act of 2021 turned the Ombudsman into the national human rights institute, giving it a mandate on human rights. The Government was still setting up this institution. Once the institute had been operationalised, it would be assessed in terms of its compliance with the Paris Principles. Staff took oaths to faithfully serve the public impartially. They were liable for criminal activities, but not for actions undertaken in good faith in the course of their duties. The Ombudsman was not subjected to control from any party in carrying out its duties. It was allowed to access the premises of any entity for the purposes of investigation.
Botswana had been carrying out human rights education, although not targeted education on racial discrimination. The delegation would encourage such education to be conducted in the future.
Botswana’s media understood its responsibility to not disseminate racially intolerant messages. In August 2022, Parliament passed the Media Associations Bill, which established institutions to regulate the media and receive complaints about discrimination in the media. There was one State print media outlet and 13 private outlets, one State television station, three private stations and eight foreign stations operating in Botswana. These media transmitted information to rural as well as urban areas.
Legal aid was provided to indigenous persons and covered remote communities. Interpretation was provided in courts to litigants who did not understand English or Setswana. A financial means test was conducted to determine whether legal aid was required. Legal aid initially only offered aid on civil matters, but from this year, the legal aid service would pilot a project to provide criminal legal aid in certain cities and through mobile legal aid services.
RÉGINE ESSENEME, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about the difference between the three types of land established by land tenure legislation. Were citizens aware that they had the right to make land claims? Who were the current members of the Land Council?
Ms. Esseneme called for more information on actions taken in response to the decision of the High Court on support provided for indigenous people living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
ATHALIAH LESIBA MOLOKOMME, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that it was difficult to control settlement and provide services in game reserves. However, the High Court had decided that the inhabitants of Central Kalahari Game Reserve had the right to live there. Children were not separated from their parents. The Government happily provided services to the inhabitants of the Reserve. There was no systematic harassment of these citizens by the police. Hunting was not permitted in the Reserve without a permit. Mining was not conducted in game reserves.
Although not a major problem in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, elephants were trampling and killing citizens in other areas, having invaded places where people lived. In response, the Government had permitted the hunting of elephants. The State called for international assistance in managing the growing elephant population.
One Committee Expert said that all refugees were required to stay in a refugee camp. What did refugees need protecting from? There were complaints of violence and abuse within these camps. Stricter measures needed to be adopted on combatting violence and abuse, particularly gender-based violence, in these camps. The State also needed to investigate complaints thoroughly. Offensive language in camps could be based on racial discrimination.
MAZALO TEBIE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the absence of complaints did not indicate that there was no discrimination. Barriers to registering complaints needed to be lowered, and migrant women needed more support.
ATHALIAH LESIBA MOLOKOMME, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that 70 per cent of Botswanan land was “tribal land”. This land was formally Crown land in the colonial era. There was also land purchased by the State for the development of cities and game reserves. “Tribal land” was provided to citizens for free. Any person could apply for land in any location.
The delegation said that for a person to qualify to be a member of a Land Board, they had to be over 26 years old and below 70, and they needed to be a citizen residing in the area where the Land Board operated.
There were no complaints regarding racial discrimination or racist activities logged with camp managers. The case involving offensive language related to a case where a person owed another money, and was not related to racism. Refugees were not confined to camps. Women living in camps were given financial packages to start small businesses.
RÉGINE ESSENEME, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, extended thanks to the delegation for providing clear responses to the Committee’s questions. It was pleasing to note that since 2020, all non-nationals were able to access preventative treatment for HIV/AIDS. Ms. Esseneme wished Botswana further success in integrating its communities, so that all communities, including non-Tswana communities, could equally access justice, services and rights.
DUMEZWENI MESHACK MTHIMKHULU, Assistant Minister, Ministry for State President and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the thorough, focused and rich discussion on the steps Botswana had taken to implement the Convention. The Government of Botswana was committed to ending racial discrimination and creating an environment conducive to upholding the rights of the Convention. Future measures such as the planned comprehensive review of the Constitution and new legislation would further strengthen protections from discrimination. The State party cooperated actively with civil society and Special Procedure mandate holders. It would work to implement the Committee’s concluding observations through its dedicated follow-up mechanism.