Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices - 2004
Released by the Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 28, 2005
Botswana is a longstanding
multiparty democracy. Constitutional power is shared between the President and
a popularly elected National Assembly. On October 30, Festus Mogae, who has
led the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) since 1998, was reelected President in
parliamentary elections deemed generally free and fair; however, there were
opposition complaints of unequal access to coverage by state-owned television.
The BDP, which has held a majority of seats in the National Assembly
continuously since independence, won 44 of 57 National Assembly seats. The
Government generally respected the constitutional provisions for an
independent judiciary; however, a shortage of judges resulted in a large
backlog of cases.
The Botswana Defense Force, which
is under the control of the Defense Council within the Office of the
President, has primary responsibility for external security, although it
assisted with domestic law enforcement on a case-by-case basis. The Botswana
Police Service (BPS) has primary responsibility for internal security. The
civilian Government maintained effective control of the security forces. Some
members of the security forces, in particular the police, reportedly committed
human rights abuses.
The economy of the country, which
had a population of 1.7 million, was market oriented with strong encouragement
for private enterprise through tax benefits. Approximately 32 percent of the
labor force worked in the informal sector, largely subsistence farming and
animal husbandry. Rural poverty remained a serious problem, as did a widely
skewed income distribution. From 2002 to 2003, gross domestic product (GDP)
grew by 6.7 percent, according to the Bank of Botswana. Diamond exports
provided approximately 75 percent of export income, 50 percent of government
revenues, and 33 percent of GDP. The high incidence of HIV/AIDS strained
government finances and decreased productivity.
The Government generally respected
the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in several
areas. Police reportedly beat or otherwise mistreated criminal suspects on
occasion to obtain evidence or coerce confessions. Prison conditions were poor
and possibly life threatening. The judicial system did not provide timely fair
trials due to a serious backlog of cases. The Government continued to dominate
domestic broadcasting and limited freedom of the press. Some citizens,
including groups not numbered among the eight ethnic groups of the majority
Tswana nation, remained marginalized in the political process. Violence and
discrimination against women remained serious problems. Societal
discrimination against ethnic San (Basarwa) and persons with HIV/AIDS were
problems. Child abuse was a problem. Trade unions continued to face some legal
restrictions, including those against the right to strike, and the Government
did not always ensure that labor laws were observed in practice; however,
during the year, the Government recognized the right of civil servants to
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the
Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful
Deprivation of Life
There were no politically
motivated killings by the Government or its agents; however, on March 19,
prison officials shot and killed an illegal immigrant as he attempted to
escape from the Center for Illegal Immigrants. Officials reportedly fired 11
warning shots first. The shooting triggered a prison riot in which one person
was injured seriously (see Section 2.d.). The results of a government
investigation into the incident had not been released by year's end.
On November 13, police shot and
killed a suspected criminal after he threatened the officers with a machete in
an attempt to escape arrest. The fugitive, who was wanted for theft, had
escaped from custody 4 days earlier.
There were no reports of
politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution explicitly
prohibits such practices; however, there were reports that on occasion, police
used beatings and other forms of abuse to obtain evidence or elicit
confessions. Coerced confessions and evidence gathered through coercion or
abuse are inadmissible in court.
On September 8, the independent
media reported that a group of bank employees had filed a suit against the
Government alleging that police officers had tortured them to extract
information in connection with a fraud investigation; police denied the
allegations. The employees, who charged that interrogators had suffocated some
suspects with plastic bags and stripped, bound, and kicked one suspect, had
not filed a police report by year's end. No further information was available.
Customary courts continued to
impose corporal punishment in the form of lashings on the buttocks, generally
against young offenders in villages for crimes such as vandalism, theft, and
delinquency. During the year, the Government denied foreign media charges that
illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in the country had been subjected to torture and
killings; however, the Government noted that the law provides for corporal
punishment and applies it to all, including foreigners and citizens of the
Prison conditions remained poor
and possibly life threatening. The 24 prisons across the country had a
capacity of 3,870 inmates, but held 5,864 as of August 27. Overcrowding, which
was worse in men's prisons, constituted a serious health threat because of the
country's high incidence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Rape between inmates
occurred. During the first 8 months of the year, 47 detainees died following
long illnesses, according to the Government. HIV/AIDS testing and the U.N.
Development Program (UNDP) peer counseling were available to all prisoners;
however, prison officials still lacked reliable statistics on the HIV
infection rate within the prison population. The Prison Commissioner has the
authority to release terminally ill prisoners who are in the last 12 months of
their sentences and to allow citizen prisoners with sentences of 12 months or
less to perform "extramural" labor. From January through August, the
Government released 587 prisoners under the extramural labor program. Foreign
prisoners were required to serve their entire sentences.
The Prisons Act makes it illegal
for prison officials to mistreat prisoners. The Department of Prisons is
required to forward to police allegations of the mishandling of prisoners by
The March 19 shooting to death by
prison guards of an inmate attempting to escape triggered a riot that resulted
in injuries (see Section 1.a.).
Men were held separately from
women, and juveniles generally were held separately from adults; however, some
juveniles were held with adult prisoners due to overcrowding or requests by
family members to facilitate visitation. Pretrial detainees were held in the
same facilities as convicted prisoners. The planned opening during the year of
a new juvenile prison did not occur because of construction delays.
The Prisons Act provides for a
governmental visiting committee for each prison, the members of which are
appointed by the Minister of Labor and Home Affairs. Members of these
committees serve 3-year terms, must visit their prison four times a year, and
issue a report both to the Commissioner of Prisons and the Minister of Labor
and Home Affairs. These reports generally were not released to the public.
During the year, the committees visited each prison quarterly.
The Prisons Act grants relatives,
lawyers, magistrates, and church organizations the right to visit prisoners
for "rehabilitative purposes"; however, the Commissioner of Prisons
has the authority to decide whether domestic and international human rights
organizations may visit. Independent monitoring of prison conditions by human
rights groups, the media, or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
generally was allowed if these organizations sought permission from the
Commissioner of Prisons. However, following the March 29 shooting of an inmate
attempting to escape from the Center for Illegal Immigrants, the Botswana
Center for Human Rights was denied permission to visit due to an ongoing
investigation of the incident; a delegation of EU ambassadors subsequently
visited the Center. The ICRC visited some prisons in September.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The Constitution prohibits
arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these
prohibitions in practice.
There were approximately 7,000
police officers in the country. National and local police do not generally
carry firearms. Corruption was not common, and impunity generally was not a
problem. According to the Government, 32 police officers were convicted of
various criminal acts during the year: 5 were discharged for discreditable
conduct, 3 were reprimanded for the same offense, and 7 were charged with
official corruption during the year.
Suspects must be informed of their
legal rights upon arrest, including the right to remain silent. Detainees must
be charged before a magistrate within 48 hours. A magistrate may order a
suspect held for 14 days through a writ of detention, which may be renewed
every 14 days. Detainees have the right to contact a family member and to hire
attorneys of their choice, but in practice, most were unable to afford legal
counsel. Poor police training and poor communications in rural villages made
it difficult for detainees to obtain legal assistance, and authorities did not
always follow judicial safeguards. The Government did not provide counsel for
the indigent, except in capital cases. Most citizens charged with noncapital
offenses were released on their own recognizance; some were released with
minimal bail. Detention without bail was highly unusual, except in murder
cases, where it is mandatory. Incommunicado detention was rare, except for
prisoners awaiting execution. Constitutional protections were not applied to
illegal immigrants, although the constitutionality of denying them due process
has not been tested in court.
Pretrial detention was prolonged
in numerous cases. The average wait in prison between the filing of charges
and the start of a trial was approximately 6 months. The Government attempted
to alleviate the backlog of cases by temporarily hiring more judges; however,
the backlog of cases persisted.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an
independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision
The judiciary consists of both a
civil court (including magistrates' courts, a High Court, and a Court of
Appeal) and a customary (traditional) court system.
The law provides for the right to
a fair trial; however, the civil courts remained unable to provide timely,
fair trials due to severe staffing shortages and a backlog of pending cases.
Most trials in the regular courts were public, although trials under the
National Security Act may be held in secret. There was no jury system. Those
charged with noncapital crimes were 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. There is a presumption of
innocence, and defendants have the right to appeal. The Botswana Center for
Human Rights provided free legal services, but its capacity was limited. The
University of Botswana Legal Assistance Center provided free legal services in
civil, but not criminal, matters.
On October 6, the two San
convicted of a 1995 murder appeared before the High Court to seek a stay of
execution; the Court had not rendered a decision by year's end.
Most civil cases were tried in
customary courts, under the authority of a traditional leader. These courts
handled minor offenses involving land, marital, and property disputes.
Foreigners may be tried in customary courts. In customary courts, the
defendant does not have legal counsel, and there were no precise rules of
evidence. Tribal judges, appointed by the tribal leader or elected by the
community, determine sentences, which may be appealed through the civil court
system. The quality of decisions reached in the customary courts varied
considerably. In some cases, tribal judges may mete out sentences such as
public lashings (see Section 1.c.). In communities where chiefs and their
decisions were respected, plaintiffs tended to take their cases to the
customary court; otherwise, persons sought justice in the civil courts.
There is a military court system;
civilians are not tried in military courts.
There were no reports of political
f. Arbitrary Interference With
Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution prohibits such
actions, and the Government generally respected these prohibitions in practice;
however, in 2002, the Government forcibly resettled the San out of the Central
Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Government officials maintained that the
resettlement program was voluntary and necessary to reduce the cost of
providing public services and to minimize human impact on wildlife. The
Government made no effort to relocate the few San who returned to the CKGR. At
year's end, ethnic San remained in resettlement sites after the Government
forced them to abandon their ancestral communities within the CKGR in 2002
(see Section 5).
Section 2 Respect for Civil
a. Freedom of Speech and the Press
The Constitution provides for
freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respected
freedom of speech in practice; however, the Government 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. The Government did not restrict academic freedom.
The Botswana Press Agency, owned
and operated by the Government, provided most of the information found in the
media through the Daily News newspaper (distributed nationwide at no cost) and
two FM radio stations, Radio Botswana and Radio Botswana 2. News coverage in
the state-owned media generally supported government policies and actions. The
Daily News also published general coverage of current events and issues and
included a second front page in Setswana, the most commonly spoken language.
The independent press was small
but vigorous and had a long tradition of candid discourse. Reporters actively
covered the political arena and frequently criticized the Government and the
President without fear of closure. The circulation of privately owned print
media continued to be limited primarily to the main cities and towns: 8
privately owned weekly newspapers and 1 daily newspaper were published in
Gaborone; 1 privately owned weekly newspaper was published in Francistown; and
11 privately owned monthly magazines were published nationally.
Radio remained the most important
medium of public communication. Two private radio stations, Yarona FM and Gabz
FM, broadcast in 5 of the country's 10 largest towns; state owned radio
continued to be the only domestic radio service broadcasting to the entire
country. The law provides for the issuance of broadcast licenses to private
companies and provides copyright protection of broadcast material; the
autonomous National Broadcasting Board (NBB) granted the licenses routinely.
On December 21, the NBB licensed state-owned Radio Botswana.
BTV broadcast south from Gaborone
to Lobatse, north to Serowe and Francistown, and was scheduled to be available
throughout the country within a few years.
The privately-owned Gaborone
Broadcasting Company (GBC) broadcast mostly foreign programming and was the
only other television station operating in the country. GBC broadcasts reached
viewers only in the capital area.
Independent radio and television
broadcasts from neighboring South Africa were received easily in border areas.
Satellite television from a South African-based company was available readily,
although its cost prevented many persons from subscribing to the service.
During the year, the media and
opposition parties charged that the Government pressured state-owned media to
minimize coverage of opposition parties.
In November 2003, Minister of
Communication, Science, and Technology Boyce Sebetela announced that due to
resource constraints, BTV would restrict coverage of campaign events. BTV
subsequently covered any event at which the President or Vice President
presided, including campaign events, which prompted opposition criticism of
inequitable access to the media. As a result of the criticism, BTV expanded
its coverage to include all presidential candidates.
During the year, Radio Botswana
cancelled a program that reviewed lead stories carried by independent
newspapers each morning. The Government charged that the radio program was
"unsustainable"; however, journalists attributed the cancellation to
Minister Sebetela's desire to ensure BDP-friendly programming.
The Government's November 2003
suspension of Masa-a-sele, a radio call-in program, remained in effect at
year's end; the Government cited the program's content and use of profanity as
the reason for the suspension.
Government officials sometimes
complained of bias in the private press; however, government officials and
other public figures have recourse to the courts if they believe that they
have been libeled. Libel is a civil law matter; there are no criminal libel
The Government did not restrict
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The Constitution provides for
freedom of assembly and association, and the Government generally respected
these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for
freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in
For a more detailed discussion,
see the 2004 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement within the
Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for
these rights, and the Government generally respected them in practice.
In 2002, the Government required
the San to relocate from the CKGR to one of three designated settlements
outside of the reserve (see Sections 1.f. and 5). Visitors to the Reserve,
including relocated former residents, had to register with Department of
Wildlife officials to obtain a permit to enter the CKGR. Estimates of the San
population within the Reserve varied between 50 and 200 as members of the
community moved in and out of the CKGR during the year.
The law prohibits forced exile,
and the Government did not use it.
The law provides for the granting
of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, and the Government
has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice,
the Government generally provided protection against refoulement, the return
of persons to a country where they feared persecution, and granted refugee
status or asylum. The Government cooperated with the office of the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in
assisting refugees and asylum seekers. During the year, the Government also
provided temporary protection to approximately 550 individuals who may not
qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention/1967 Protocol.
The Government held newly arrived
refugees and asylum seekers in the Center for Illegal Immigrants in
Francistown until the Refugee Advisory Committee, a governmental body whose
Chairperson is the District Commissioner of Francistown, interviewed them;
UNHCR was present with observer status at such interviews. 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 also were allowed to remain at Dukwe
until the Government referred their cases to the UNHCR for resettlement.
As of August, the Center for
Illegal Immigrants, which has a capacity of 504, held 236 illegal immigrants.
The UNHCR opposed the detention of asylum seekers at the Center on the grounds
that asylum seekers should not be held in detention facilities. Concern about
conditions increased after the March 19 shooting of an illegal immigrant as he
tried to escape, reportedly because he had been detained without a hearing for
much longer than the 28 days mandated by law (see Section 1.a.).
During the year, approximately
4,800 illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe were repatriated each month. Unlike
during the previous year, there were no reports that security forces used
excessive force in repatriating Zimbabweans. The few Zimbabweans who requested
asylum or refugee status were allowed to apply for official status.
At year's end, there were more
than 3,000 refugees at Dukwe, primarily from Namibia, Angola, and Somalia.
Refugees are permitted to reside outside Dukwe Refugee Camp with a permit from
the Office of the President. An estimated 500 refugees, including a number of
students, were living elsewhere in the country.
The Government, UNHCR, and the
Government of Angola signed a tripartite repatriation agreement during the
year to facilitate the voluntary return of an estimated 1,200 Angolan refugees
living in Dukwe camp; the registration process for the refugees was ongoing at
year's end. By year's end, 60 families had returned to Angola; another 153
individuals had registered for repatriation.
The country continued to host
approximately 1,200 refugees from the Caprivi Strip in neighboring Namibia.
Many were associated with the Caprivian separatist movement. Unlike in the
previous year, none chose to be voluntarily repatriated.
In February, the Namibian High
Court ordered the release of 13 of the 120 detainees charged with treason; the
Judge ruled that their extradition from Botswana and Zambia did not conform to
the extradition procedures in either country. The suspects were subsequently
released and rearrested on the same charges. In July, the Namibian Supreme
Court overturned the High Court's decision; criminal proceedings for all 120
were scheduled to resume in January 2005.
In July, the Court of Appeal ruled
against the Namibian Government's request to have 13 alleged Caprivi
secessionists extradited to face charges of murder and high treason. During
the year, 2 of these individuals died of natural causes; the remaining 11 were
being held at the Center for Illegal Immigrants while the UNHCR reviewed their
The seven refugees who were
arrested on related charges of high treason in Namibia after being forcibly
returned from the country in December 2003 remained in detention at year's
end; their trial was scheduled for early 2005.
Section 3 Respect for Political
Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens
with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised
this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the
basis of universal adult (18 years of age) suffrage. The President is elected
by the National Assembly and is limited to two 5-year terms in office. The BDP
has held a majority of seats in the National Assembly and has controlled the
presidency continuously since independence. Membership in the dominant BDP
conferred some advantages, mostly in the form of government employment or
provision of government services, such as water and utilities.
On October 30, National Assembly
elections were held: The BDP increased its majority to 44 of 57 seats; the
Botswana National Front (BNF) won 12 seats; and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP)
won 1 seat. Redistricting prior to the parliamentary elections increased the
number of competitive seats in the National Assembly from 44 to 57; 4
additional members are appointed by the President, bringing the total number
of National Assembly seats to 61. The elections generally were regarded as
free and fair by domestic and international observers; however, BDP candidates
had preferential access during much of the campaign to state-owned television.
Reports of large anonymous campaign contributions to the ruling party,
particularly by international diamond interests, resulted in public calls for
greater transparency in political party funding.
The House of Chiefs, an advisory
body with limited powers, was restricted constitutionally to the eight
principal ethnic groups of the majority Tswana ethnic group and four elected
chiefs representing smaller ethnic groups, including the Bakalanga, Balozi,
Hambukushu, and Bakgalagadi; other groups such as the San, Ovaherero, or Bayei
consequently were not represented. Given the limited authority of the House of
Chiefs, the impact of excluding other groups of citizens largely was symbolic,
but some nonethnic Tswana viewed it as important in principle. No action to
change this policy had been taken by year's end.
There were 14 local councils, but
they had no fiscal autonomy and relied on the central Government for revenue.
During the year, the Government
continued its efforts to combat public corruption. On August 13, the Judicial
Commission of Inquiry into State Land Allocations published a report that
found numerous irregularities in the allocation of public land.
On September 22, the Directorate
on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) marked its 10th anniversary with a
2-day conference on corruption and how to combat it. Participants openly
debated whether the DCEC was sufficiently independent, how to institute
transparency in political party funding, and how to ensure that prominent
persons in the public and private sectors were not exempt from prosecution for
There are no laws that compel the
Government to disclose information to the public upon request.
There were 7 women in the 61-seat
National Assembly, 5 women in the 19-seat Cabinet, and 3 female justices in
the 13-seat High Court. In 2003, the first woman in the country's history was
elected chairperson of the House of Chiefs, and another woman became regent of
the Batawana tribe.
The Constitution recognizes only
the eight principal ethnic groups of the Tswana nation; however, members of
ethnic groups not recognized in the Constitution participated actively in the
Government, particularly members of the Kalanga and Bakalagadi ethnic groups.
During the year, 17 members of minority ethnic groups held seats in the
National Assembly, and 8 held seats in the Cabinet.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude
Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged
Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and
international human rights groups, including the Botswana Center for Human
Rights, generally operated without government restriction, investigating and
publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials usually
were cooperative and responsive to their views.
The Government cooperated with the
UNHCR and UNICEF, as well as other international organizations, and the ICRC
visited during the year (see Section 1.c.).
There is an independent,
autonomous ombudsman who handles human rights and other issues; the Government
generally cooperated with the ombudsman.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal
Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The Constitution prohibits
governmental discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, nationality,
creed, sex, or social status, and the Government generally respected these
provisions in practice. However, neither the Constitution nor the law
prohibits discrimination by private persons or entities. There was societal
discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, persons with
HIV/AIDS, and minority ethnic groups, particularly the San, who lived in
remote locations where access to education, public services, employment, and
land is extremely limited.
The law does not prohibit domestic
violence against women, and it remained a serious problem. Under customary law
and in common rural practice, men have the right to "chastise" their
wives. Greater public awareness and improved legal protection have resulted in
increased reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault; however, police
rarely were called to intervene in such cases. During the year, the Police
Service took steps to increase privacy at police stations to encourage victims
of domestic abuse to report such incidents.
Rape was another serious problem,
especially given the high incidence of HIV/AIDS. During the year, 1,386
incidents of rape were reported. By law, the minimum sentence for rape is 10
years increasing to 15 years with corporal punishment if the offender is
HIV-positive, and to 20 years with corporal punishment if the offender knew
his or her HIV-positive status. A person convicted of rape is required to
undergo an HIV test before being sentenced; however, the test did not
determine if the person was HIV positive at the time of the crime. Police
lacked basic investigative techniques in rape cases. The law does not address
marital rape; however, in August 2003, a magistrate dismissed a case of
alleged marital rape on the grounds that the marriage contract implies consent,
making rape impossible unless a husband and wife were legally separated. The
plaintiff, who had sought refuge in a women's shelter, had been abducted and
raped repeatedly by her husband.
Prostitution is illegal but was
widespread throughout the country.
Sexual exploitation and harassment
continued to be problems with men in positions of authority, including
teachers, supervisors, and older male relatives who pressured women and girls
to provide sexual favors.
Women legally enjoyed the same
civil rights as men; however, 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. A woman
married under traditional law or in "common property" was held to be
a legal minor and required her husband's consent to buy or sell property,
apply for credit, and enter into legally binding contracts. Under the law,
women married under an intermediate system, referred to as "in community
of property", were permitted to own immovable property in their own names.
Moreover, the law also stipulates that neither spouse can dispose of joint
property without the written consent of the other party. Women increasingly
exercised the right to marriage "out of common property", in which
case they retained their full legal rights as adults. Discrimination against
women was most acute in rural areas, where women engaged primarily in
subsistence agriculture had few property rights. Polygyny was legal under
traditional law with the consent of the first wife, but it rarely was
The Government and local
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on constructive methods to
address discrimination against women in the areas of marital power, legal
disabilities, and proprietary consequences of marriage under common law,
customary law, and the Married Persons Property Act. On December 8, the
President signed into law the Abolition of Marital Powers Act, which
established equality of control over the joint estates of marriages and equal
guardianship of parents over minor children. The Act also removes the domicile
of husbands and fathers as the grounds for establishing the domicile for wives
and minor children. Marriage laws set the marriage age for men and women at 18
Well-trained urban women had
growing entry- and mid-level access to white collar jobs, but the number of
opportunities decreased sharply as they rose to senior management.
Young women did not have access to
The Government and NGOs met
regularly to implement the long-term plan of action described in the National
Policy on Women. The Women's Affairs Department helped support a number of
NGOs during the year, and the Department provided financial assistance for
legal aid in cases of domestic violence and defilement.
The rights of children are
addressed in the Constitution and the Children's Act, and the Government
remained committed to the protection of these rights. The Government continued
to allocate the largest portion of its operating expenditures to the Ministry
of Education and the second largest portion to the Ministry of Local
Government, which distributed books, food, and materials for primary education.
Under the law, the country has a court system and social service apparatus
designed solely for juveniles.
During the year, the Government
expanded its provision of free primary education for children from 7 years to
10 years, although attendance was not compulsory. Approximately 88 percent of
children attended school, and approximately 30 percent completed secondary
school, according to the Government. Girls and boys attended school at similar
rates. School attendance and completion rates were highest in urban areas and
lowest in remote rural areas, especially those inhabited chiefly by the San.
The literacy rate was 81 percent: 82 percent for females and 80 percent for
UNAIDS estimated that 37.4 percent
of persons between the ages of 15 and 49 were infected with HIV/AIDS. UNICEF
reported there were approximately 112,000 orphans in the country, due largely
to deaths from HIV/AIDS; however, 28 percent of babies born from HIV positive
mothers were protected from the virus, largely as a result of the Prevention
of Mother to Child Transmission Program. As of December, the Government had
registered approximately 47,000 orphans. Once registered, orphans may receive
food baskets and school uniforms. Many children, mostly believed to be orphans,
became beggars in urban areas, and some became prostitutes. Relatives
continued to deny inheritance rights to orphans.
Sexual abuse of students by
teachers was a problem. Reports of rape and sexual assault of young women and
cases of incest and defilement of young girls appeared with greater frequency
in the news. The increasing number of HIV/AIDS orphans contributed to an
increase in incest. The law considers incest a punishable act only if it
occurs between blood relatives, leaving children unprotected from incestuous
acts performed by step parents, caregivers, and the extended family. The age
of sexual consent was 16. Child prostitution and pornography were criminal
offenses, and the law stipulates a 10-year minimum sentence for defilement of
persons under 16 years of age. In view of the belief held by some persons in
southern Africa that intercourse with a virgin was a cure for HIV/AIDS,
intergenerational sex (sexual relations between older men and girls) and the
problems of teenage pregnancy caused by older men continued to receive
extensive media attention during the year.
There were reports of child labor
(see Section 6.d.).
Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit
trafficking in persons, although penal code provisions cover such related
offenses as abduction and kidnapping, slave trafficking, compulsory labor, and
procuring women and girls for the purpose of prostitution; however, there were
unconfirmed reports that women were trafficked through the country to other
destinations. During the year, there were reports that poor rural children
were taken from their homes under false pretenses and forced to work as maids
or cattle herders. There were reports that some children who were orphaned by
HIV/AIDS became prostitutes in urban areas (see Section 5, Children).
Traffickers charged with kidnapping or abduction could be sentenced to 7 years'
During the year, the Government
took steps to develop a national plan of action to address trafficking. In
February, the Government and UNICEF established a task force on trafficking
chaired by the police, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International
Cooperation convened a meeting on trafficking with other government agencies,
NGOs, and foreign diplomats. Local police in cooperation with their South
African counterparts continued an intensive program to increase border
Persons with Disabilities
There was some discrimination
against persons with disabilities, and employment opportunities remained
limited. 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. The Government
funded NGOs that provided rehabilitation services and supported small-scale
work projects by workers with disabilities.
The San, who now chiefly inhabit
the Kalahari Desert, are the earliest known inhabitants of the country. They
were linguistically, culturally, and often morphologically distinct from the
rest of the population; however, they were not a homogenous group. The San
remained economically and politically marginalized, have lost access to their
traditional land in fertile regions of the country, and were vulnerable to
exploitation by their non-San neighbors. Their isolation, ignorance of civil
rights, and lack of political representation have stymied their progress. The
estimated 52,000 to 65,000 San represented approximately 3 percent of the
country's population. Although the San traditionally were hunter-gatherers,
most employed San worked as agricultural laborers on cattle ranches that
belonged to other ethnic groups. During the year, a substantial proportion of
the San resided in government-created Remote Area Dweller settlements and
subsisted on government social welfare benefits.
The colonial government
established the 20,000-square-mile CKGR in 1961 to protect the food supply of
some San groups still pursuing a subsistence hunter-gatherer livelihood;
however, by 2001, the Government delivered an ultimatum declaring that all
residents of the CKGR would be removed and relocated. The Government continued
to provide the San with water, healthcare services, and old age, orphan, and
destitute benefits until January 2002, when all public services were
terminated, and subsistence hunting licenses were revoked. In April 2002, the
Government forcibly resettled all San from the CKGR to the government-created
settlement areas of Kaudwane, New Xade, and Xere. The San continued to
struggle with the lack of services and opportunities in the relocation areas,
and a few have moved back into the CKGR. Settlement sustainability was
threatened by the lack of employment opportunities and rampant alcohol abuse.
San groups have called for the Government to recognize their land use system
and to grant them land rights.
On July 12, the High Court began
hearing a case filed by the First People of the Kalahari, an NGO representing
the San, against the Government to challenge the constitutionality of the
Government's removal of the San from the CKGR into settlements. The case,
which the Government announced it would appeal should it lose, was scheduled
to resume in January 2005.
President Mogae announced during
that year that residents of the CKGR were "allowed to hunt inside the
CKGR provided they hunt by traditional means, i.e., hunting on foot using bows
and arrows." San who moved out of the CKGR were not allowed to hunt there;
however, they were allowed to obtain free Special Game Licenses to hunt in
designated areas outside of the CKGR. During the year, 74 such permits were
issued to residents of New Xade; however, game was scarce in those areas, and
few San used the licenses.
A number of NGOs have made efforts
to promote the rights of indigenous people; however, the programs have had
Other Societal Abuses and
There was strong societal
discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In the past, some employers
fired HIV-positive employees after learning of their status; however, there
were no reports of such activities during the year, according to the Botswana
Business Council on HIV/AIDS. On February 26, the Botswana Building Society
(BBS) announced that it would no longer require HIV testing as a condition of
employment; in October 2003, a BBS employee sued her employer for terminating
her services after she refused to undergo an HIV test.
The Government funded community
organizations that ran programs to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS. President
Mogae, who has repeatedly encouraged senior government officials to speak out
about HIV/AIDS, announced publicly in 2003 that he tested negative for HIV.
The law prohibits homosexuality.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution provides for the
right of workers' association, and during the year, the Government extended
this right to government employees, the only group that had been excluded in
the past from joining or organizing unions of their own choosing. The
industrial or wage economy was small, and unions were concentrated largely in
mineral extraction and to a lesser extent in the railway and banking sectors.
During the year, the President
signed a law that rescinded a former government requirement that elected union
officials work full-time in the industry of their union representation.
Workers may not be fired for
union-related activities. Dismissals on other grounds may be appealed to civil
courts or labor officers, which rarely ordered more than 2 months' severance
b. The Right to Organize and
The Constitution provides for
collective bargaining for unions that have enrolled 25 percent of a labor
force; however, only the mineworker and diamond sorter unions had the
organizational strength to engage in collective bargaining. The country has
only one export processing zone, and it was subject to the same labor laws as
the rest of the country.
The law severely restricts the
right to strike. Legal strikes theoretically are possible only after an
exhaustive arbitration process. Sympathy strikes are prohibited.
On August 22, approximately 1,500
members of the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) went on strike to protest
compensation, the use of expatriate labor, and the pressuring by management of
union officials. The Industrial Court ruled the strike illegal, and on
September 6, the strikers returned to work.
c. Prohibition of Forced or
The Government does not prohibit
forced and compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were no
reports that such practices occurred.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and
Minimum Age for Employment
Child labor is addressed in the
Children's Act; however, some child labor occurred. 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.
No organization has petitioned the Commissioner for such permission. Only
persons over age 16 may be hired to perform night work, and no person under
age 16 is allowed to perform hazardous labor, including mining.
District and municipal councils
had child welfare divisions, which were responsible for enforcing child labor
laws; however, no systematic investigation has occurred. The Labor
Commissioner; officials of the Ministry of Local Government, Lands, and
Housing; and UNICEF generally agreed that child labor was limited to young
children in remote areas who worked as cattle tenders, domestic laborers, and
child care providers. Childline, a child welfare organization, received 25
reports of child labor during the year.
The law provides that adopted
children may not be exploited for labor and protects orphans from exploitation
or coercion into prostitution; however, HIV/AIDS has resulted in numerous
orphans who were forced to leave school to care for sick relatives and who
were vulnerable to such exploitation.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum hourly wage for most
full-time labor in the private sector was $0.64 (2.9 pula), which did not
provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The Cabinet
determined wage policy based on recommendations made by the National Economic,
Manpower, and Incomes Committee, which consists of government, BFTU, and
private sector representatives. The Ministry of Labor 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 1- to 2-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 did not recommend
a minimum wage for them.
The law permits a maximum 48-hour
workweek, exclusive of overtime, that is payable at time and a half for each
additional hour. Most modern private sector jobs had a 40-hour workweek;
however, the public sector had a 48-hour workweek.
The law provides that workers who
complain about hazardous conditions may not be fired; however, the
Government's ability to enforce its workplace safety legislation remained
limited by inadequate staffing and unclear jurisdictions among different
ministries. Nevertheless, employers generally provided for worker safety, with
an occasional exception in the construction industry.
Illegal immigrants from poorer
neighboring countries, primarily Zambians and Zimbabweans, were exploited
easily in labor matters, since they would be subject to deportation if they
filed grievances against their employers.
On February 28, 2005, Under
Secretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky held an On-the-Record
briefing to announce the release of the 2004 Human Rights Reports. Acting
Assistant Secretary for Democracy Human Rights and Labor Michael Kozak also
gave remarks and answered questions.
The report entitled "Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices" is submitted to the Congress by the
Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade
Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall
transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on
Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete
report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within
the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this
part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United
Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under
this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not
fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not
covered by the congressional requirement.
The International Religious
Freedom Report for 2004 is submitted to the Congress by the Department of
State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom
Act (IRFA) of 1998. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall
transmit to Congress each year "an Annual Report on International
Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by
providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving
international religious freedom." This Annual Report includes individual
country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide.