Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1986

Botswana is a multiparty democracy with free elections, an
independent judiciary, a small police force, and a well-
disciplined army subservient to civilian authority. Under the
Constitution, executive power is vested in the President,
chosen in a national election for a 5-year term, most recently
in 1984. The President, currently Quett K.J. Masire, selects
the Cabinet from the National Assembly. One party continues to
dominate the country's politics: the Botswana Democratic
Party (BDP) has held a majority in the National Assembly since
independence and at the end of 1986 controlled 30 of 34
elective seats.
Botswana encourages private enterprise and free trade. All
citizens, including those whites who accepted Botswana
citizenship, are free to participate in the economic and
political life of the country. Exploitation of the country's
mineral resources has stimulated economic development, and per
capita gross domestic product increased from $69 in 1966 to
$950 in 1986. Despite this progress, about 75 percent of the
population is dependent on subsistence agriculture and live in
rural areas.
Botswana's human rights record generally remains good.
Citizens receive equal protection under the law; domestic
political violence is unknown; public debate, including that
in the press, is lively; and several women hold positions of
importance in the public and private sector. However, Botswana
suffered increasing pressure from neighboring South Africa in
1986, which resulted in the Gaborone Government adopting a
strong National Security Act, greatly enhancing the powers of
the Attorney General and the police force in national security
cases. As of August, 110 people had been arrested under this
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
The Government has never been accused of involvement in
political killings. There is no guerrilla or insurgency
activity directed against the Government. However, South
Africa's May 19 commando raid killed one person, and a June 14
shooting incident (on the anniversary of South Africa's first
raid on Gaborone) killed another, for which Botswana officially
blamed the South African Government. No summary executions
have occurred in Botswana.
b. Disappearance
The Constitution provides for the protection of personal
liberty. However, the new National Security Act grants the
Government the authority to hold detainees incommunicado on
security grounds. Botswana's Chief of Police has lessened the
full impact of this law by periodically stating publicly how
many people have been arrested in connection with security
matters. Most of those arrested have been South Africans who
were temporarily detained for attempting to bring guns or
contraband into Botswana without a permit. There was no
evidence that this law led to the disappearance of any
detainees .
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
There were no reports of improper treatment by the police of
criminals or criminal suspects during 1986. Prison conditions
allow for adequate diet, health care, and visits from family
members. Jails in Botswana can be crowded and inmates who have
no relatives to see to their needs may encounter difficulty in
arranging for maintenance. Flogging is permitted for
infractions of prison rules and is mandatory punishment for
rape, attempted rape, armed robbery, burglary, housebreaking,
and related offenses. Traditional tribal courts presided over
by a chief, where jurisdiction is limited to minor offenses,
may also sentence individuals to be flogged.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.
The Botswana Constitution contains a provision protecting
citizens from arbitrary arrests. This provision still applies
despite the passage of the new National Security Act.
Preventive detention is illegal, and habeas corpus exists both
in law and practice. Police are required to bring a suspect
before a magistrate for charging within 48 hours of his arrest.
There is a functioning system of bail, and defendants have
access to lawyers of their own choosing. In security cases,
the suspect must be arraigned within 96 hours of his arrest.
In nonsecurity cases, suspects must be released after 48 hours
unless the magistrate issues a warrant of detention which is
valid for 14 days. Every 14 days the police must appear
before the magistrate and show they are making progress in the
case. To date there have been no known abuses of this system.
Forced labor is illegal in Botswana and is not practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The right to a fair public trail is provided by law and honored
in practice; trials involving national security, however, may
be closed to the public. Defendants are entitled to counsel;
consultation between defendants and counsel may be held in
private. There are clearly defined appeal procedures. The
judiciary is independent of the executive and the military and
consists of a High Court, Court of Appeals, magistrate courts,
and customary courts. The High Court has ruled that there
exists the right against self-incrimination in the courts.
Moreover, silence cannot be construed as guilt, and the burden
of proof remains with the prosecution except in security
matters. Since no case has yet been tried under the National
Security Act, legal practice under its provisions is not yet
clear. There are no political prisoners in Botswana.
Botswana created a customary court of appeal in 1986,
permitting cases tried in the traditional court system (which
exists alongside the magistrate's courts) the right to appeal
judgments in familial and property cases. About 100 cases were
heard in this court during its first 6 months of existence.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
These rights are safeguarded by law and respected in practice.
A search warrant issued by a magistrate is required for an
official to enter a private residence, except in cases of
suspected diamond theft, drug trafficking, or national security
matters. There were no reported instances in which this
authority was used for diamond or drug related cases in 1986,
and the Government did not state whether the powers of search
contained in the new National Security Act were used.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and of the press are guaranteed by the
Constitution and are respected in practice. The government-
owned newspaper and radio continue to report statements by all
opposition parties. Three independent weekly newspapers
publish articles on a wider range of views than the government-
owned media. Reporting on several sensitive political issues
during 1986 demonstrated that the independent press has
continued to evolve. This development, along with an effective
judiciary and a functioning democratic political system,
combine to insure freedom of speech and of the press.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly is a well-established tradition in
Botswana, exemplified by the kgotla, a communal gathering
similar to a New England town meeting in which citizens freely
question leaders and voice opinions on local politics. Kgotla
meetings are used regularly by political candidates and
members of Parliament, including Ministers, to explain their
programs to the people. Large gatherings require local police
approval, which is routinely given. Demonstrations are
permitted so long as order is maintained. Organizers are
required to submit a detailed plan for any demonstration and
are personally responsible for ensuring that the plan is
Unions have the right to organize, to bargain collectively,
and to strike after exhausting established procedures, which
require that the Goverrunent be invited to arbitrate the
dispute. In practice, strikes are very rare and the wildcat
strike in the banking sector in late 1986 was quickly settled.
Unions have chafed under goverrunent regulations which prohibit
financial contributions to unions from outside Botswana and
require that all union leaders continue to work full-time in
the trade their union represents, thus preventing employment
of paid, full-time union organizers. Unions are important in
the country's largest industries (mining-related) but have not
yet developed a base in other sectors of the economy.
Completely independent of government control or party
affiliation, unions in Botswana actively represent their
members. Unions associate freely with international
organizations, and members attend international conferences.
The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) is affiliated
with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and
is also a member of the Organization of African Trade Union
Unity and the Southern African Trade Union Coordination
Council (SATUCC).
In March 1986, the Government canceled the residence permit of
the Malawian Executive Secretary of SATUCC. The organization
relocated its headquarters outside Botswana. While the
Government gave no reason for its action, critics of its labor
policy claim the expulsion was designed to limit foreign labor
assistance to Botswana's trade unions as part of a policy of
restraining organized labor.
c. Freedom of Religion
Open practice of religion is permitted and encouraged. There
is no state religion. While most residents identify
themselves with Christian sects, active groups of Muslims,
Hindus, Baha'is, and others practice their faiths freely.
Religious affiliation is neither an advantage nor disadvantage
politically or socially. Religious conversion is permitted,
and missionaries are allowed to enter the country and
proselytize. Foreign clergy are also permitted to enter
Botswana and to serve expatriate congregations.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation.
Botswana citizens are subject to virtually no restrictions on
emigration or repatriation. Domestic and foreign travel are
unrestricted and passports are easily obtained. Refugees
documented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) are generally required to live in the settlement at
Dukwe in northern Botswana where conditions are relatively
good, due mainly to contributions of international donor
organizations. Refugees may be authorized to live elsewhere
for reasons such as employment or schooling. As with other
foreigners in Botswana, refugees are not permitted to accept
jobs which could be filled by a local citizen. Due to
allegations from some neighboring countries that refugees are
using Botswana as a sanctuary in which to pursue activities
against the governments of their respective home countries,
Botswana has declared that Dukwe residents found outside the
camp without permission will be considered to have abandoned
refugee status and will be repatriated as a deterrent to
questionable activities by other refugees.
In June 1986, Botswana's Minister of Presidential Affairs and
Public Administration P.H.K. Kedikilwe (who holds the
portfolio for refugee matters) reiterated Botswana's
determination to continue to accept refugees despite the
pressure by South Africa to cease. The Minister stated that
Botswana would increase the screening of refugee applicants to
make sure that the applicants have no ties to the African
National Congress (ANC) or the Pan-Af r icanist Congress (PAC).
Over 600 Zimbabwean refugees voluntarily returned home from
Botswana during 1986. However, Botswana involuntarily
repatriated one Zimbabwean, Makhatini Guduza, in February. In
explaining this repatriation, Presidential Affairs Minister
Kedikilwe stated that Botswana had "irrefutable evidence
indicating Guduza s direct involvement in hostile activities
against the Government of Zimbabwe," which he claimed
constituted a violation of Guduza' s status as a refugee.
Kedikilwe added that Botswana had sought a country of second
asylum for Guduza without success.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government .
Botswana is ruled by a goverrment genuinely elected by its
people. In the 1984 national election (the fifth since
Botswana became independent), an estimated 70 percent of the
eligible voters registered, and 86 percent of the registered
voters actually cast their ballots. In 1986 Botswana held an
important by-election in which an opposition party candidate
won by a sizable majority despite a hard-fought campaign by
the country's ruling party.
There are five parties in Botswana, three of which are
represented in the country's National Assembly. Opposition
parties now control three city councils in the country,
including Gaborone, Jwaneng, and Francistown. However, one
party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), continues to
dominate the country's politics, having held a majority in the
National Assembly since independence in 1966.
The political rights of women and minority groups are generally
observed. For example, there are two female members of
Parliament, one the Minister of External Affairs, the other
the executive secretary of the majority party. Several
members of minority ethnic groups are also represented in the
National Assembly; one white member of Parliament is also a
cabinet minister, and the Speaker of the National Assembly is
white. Several cabinet ministers are of Kalanga or Bakgaligadi
descent .
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Botswana cooperates with international agencies concerned with
human rights, most notably the UNHCR which maintains offices
within Botswana. There are no Botswana-based organizations
set up to observe, report, or contest human rights violations.
The Government consistently has responded promptly and
forthrightly to inquiries on the human rights situation in
Botswana but usually refrains from public comment on alleged
human rights violations in neighboring countries. However,
Botswana condemns apartheid and advocates positive
socioeconomic development in South Africa.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
While 95 percent of the population is made up of the Batswana
tribe, there are eight subgroups, and ethnic differences do
exist in Botswana., though they play a marginal role in the
country's politics. Only the approximately 50,000 Basarwa or
Bushmen remain generally unrepresented in government. Because
the Basarwa live primarily in remote, rural areas and have
little contact with the population centers of Botswana, the
Basarwa remain relatively unaffected by government educational
and economic assistance programs and, consequently, have
participated only marginally in the country's political life.
The Government does not oppress or deny them rights, and they
have full rights of suffrage.
Women hold approximately 24 percent of the paid jobs in
Botswana. An estimated 41 percent of central government
employees are women, many of them, as noted, in high-level
positions. While there is little overt discrimination,
statistics suggest that social custom elevates the perquisites
and privileges of men above those of women. Some 4 percent
of rural households are headed by women. Generally speaking,
women's economic opportunities — access to capital, labor,
draft animals, seeds for farming — are significantly worse than
those of men. Women may choose between civil marriage, in
which all property is held in common, or customary marriage,
which recognizes individual property brought to a marriage.
Most women are not aware of the implications of these
alternatives, however. Often a married woman is unable to
obtain a bank loan without the signature of her husband, and
likewise an unmarried woman must obtain the signature of her
father. The Government has assisted in the publication of a
women's rights handbook, and has established preference points
for women seeking government-sponsored development loans.
Botswana law prevents the employment of children 12 years and
younger by anyone except members of the child's immediate
family. No juvenile under the age of 15 can be employed in
industry, and only those over 16 can be employed in night work,
No person 16 or younger is permitted to work in hazardous
jobs, including mining. Women are not permitted to work at
night (except on an emergency basis in agricultural work) and
are not permitted to work as miners. Moreover, Botswana law
protects young people from recruiters for jobs outside the
country. The law also provides for minimum working standards,
including job safety, maximum working hours per week, and a
minimum wage. For some jobs during certain seasons, Botswana
law permits a workweek longer than 48 hours (such as in
agriculture during the harvest season).