Botswana attained statehood in the 1960s. Its Constitution emanates from that era and is similar in text to constitutions that ushered independence to countries that were part of or related to the British empire. As such, it does not make explicit mention of some of the rights that fall under the purview of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR). This obviously does not necessarily mean that these rights do not exist, or are not recognised under the Botswana constitutional framework.
Botswana is one of the few countries in the Southern African Development Community that has not been afflicted by political conflict. The 2016 Rule of Law Index placed the country on 3rd position in Africa, a very high score indeed.
As a result of its highly developed mining and commercial sectors, Botswana has a better opportunity than its neighbours to score high in terms of responses to any benchmarks that relate to the recognition, protection and fulfilment of ESCR.
At the same time, its vast geographical space, coupled with some desert portions, bring to the fore the issues of water and climate change. The right to water is one of the fundamental rights that fall within the rubric of ESCRs.
Below are some of the issues around ESCRs that were debated in Parliament in November 2017:
• A motion was moved urging the Executive to review the ease of doing business in Botswana, by reducing the cost and time associated with the starting a business in the country.
• In the interest of holding the Executive to account, and providing for access to information by citizens, Hon. Salakae also tabled a motion demanding that the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency Forensic Audit Report be made public.
• With the support of SAPST and other partners, Honourable Kenewendo moved a motion for Government to consider creating a sexual predators and offenders’ registry and banning child sexual abuse offenders from working in schools.
• Honourable Rantuana introduced a motion which requested Government to introduce Widow/Spouse Allowance for those who lost their partners especially those who were the sole breadwinners for their families and those who worked in the South African mines as their taxes contributed immensely towards the development of Botswana when it was still a poor country.
• Hon. Salakae introduced a motion requesting Government to continue with its contributions towards the medical cover for public servants for a period of six months, to enable them access services while awaiting pension pay-outs. This, it is submitted, would ensure that the right to health was addressed.
• Honourable Billy moved a motion requesting Government to introduce indigenous languages as a medium of instruction in the Botswana education system.
SAPST has been engaging various stakeholders over a variety of matters related to ESCRs. In this respect, the organisation offers and will continue to offer technical support for the engagement of MPs in their individual and collective capacity by stakeholders who include the public and CSOs.