The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

TITLE:  BOTSWANA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                            BOTSWANA


Botswana is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy.  The 
President exercises executive authority; Sir Ketumile Masire, 
was reelected for a third 5-year term in October.  The ruling 
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) continued to dominate the 
National Assembly, holding 31 of 44 seats.  The opposition 
Botswana National Front (BNF) has the remaining 13 seats.

The civilian Government exercises effective control over the 
security forces.  The military, the Botswana Defense Force 
(BDF), and the Botswana National Police (BNP) are responsible 
for external and internal security.

The economy is market oriented with strong encouragement for 
private enterprise.  Steady diamond revenues and efficient 
economic and fiscal policies resulted in steady growth, 
although the rate slowed somewhat compared to the previous 
year.  Per capita gross domestic product was approximately 
$3,100 in 1994.  Over 50 percent of the population is employed 
in the informal sector, largely subsistence farming and animal 
husbandry.  Rural poverty remains a serious problem.

Respect for citizens' human rights is enshrined in the 
Constitution, and the Government has widely observed these 
rights.  Despite a number of problem areas, Botswana's overall 
human rights record has been consistently positive since 
independence in 1966.  However, there were credible reports 
that police sometimes mistreated suspects, especially during 
interrogation.  The continued arbitrary detention of suspected 
economic migrants alongside convicted felons remained a serious 
problem in 1994.  Women continue to face significant legal and 
societal discrimination, and violence against women is a 
growing problem.  Groups not numbered among the eight 
"principal tribes" identified in the Constitution still do not 
enjoy full access to social services and are marginalized in 
the political process.  In many instances the judicial system 
did not provide timely fair trials due to a serious backlog of 
cases.  Trade unions continued to face some legal restrictions, 
and the Government did not always ensure that labor laws were 
observed in practice.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution explicitly forbids torture, inhuman, and 
degrading treatment or punishment.  The authorities generally 
respect this prohibition in practice, and in some cases have 
taken disciplinary or judicial action against persons 
responsible for abuses.  However, instances of abuse do occur.  
While coerced confessions are inadmissible in court, evidence 
gathered through coercion or abuse may be used in prosecution.  
There were credible reports that police sometimes used 
intimidation techniques in order to obtain evidence.  In the 
past, police sometimes suffocated criminal suspects with a 
plastic bag, but police beatings and other forms of extreme 
physical abuse are rare.  A victim of police brutality filed 
and won a civil suit against the BNP in 1994; criminal charges 
are still pending.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has law 
enforcement authority within the confines of the 40 percent of 
the country that is devoted to conservation.  There were 
credible but unconfirmed reports that DWNP wardens sometimes 
tortured suspected poachers in remote areas.  There was 
insufficient evidence for the DWNP or the courts to assemble 
cases against the alleged perpetrators.  The DWNP and the rest 
of the Government condemn such practices, but the allegations 
continued in 1994.

Prison conditions are generally acceptable, although 
overcrowding has increased in the last decade.  The Government 
makes efforts to protect women in custody from rape and other 
abuse.  Police placed arrested women in the charge of female 
officers to reduce the potential for mistreatment, and they 
keep female suspects and convicted felons in separate 
facilities from men.  Sexual assault against women is not a 
problem in the prison system.

The Government does not forcibly repatriate or deport failed 
asylum seekers, but does not always permit them to remain 
free.  In the absence of a dedicated facility for failed asylum 
seekers, the authorities have resorted in some instances to 
incarcerating them alongside convicted felons.  While 
recognizing this as a problem, the Government is reluctant to 
build a separate facility both for budgetary reasons and out of 
concern that such a facility would attract asylum seekers.

The Government permits independent monitoring of its prisons, 
including by church, nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and 
international groups.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under the Constitution, "every person in Botswana" enjoys 
freedom from arbitrary arrest as well as due process and the 
presumption of innocence.  However, the Government has not 
extended those rights to those who enter the country 
illegally.  Upon arrest, a suspect must be informed of his or 
her legal rights, including the right to remain silent, to be 
allowed to contact a person of choice, and generally to be 
charged before a magistrate within 48 hours.  A magistrate may 
detain a suspect for 14 days through a writ of detention, which 
may be renewed every 14 days.  Most citizens charged with 
noncapital offenses are released on their own recognizance; 
some are released with minimal bail.  Detention without bail is 
highly unusual, except in murder cases, where it is mandated.  
Detainees have the right to hire attorneys of their choice.

Poor police training and poor communications in rural villages, 
however, make it difficult for many detainees to obtain legal 
assistance, and authorities do not always strictly follow 
procedures.  The Government does not provide counsel for the 
indigent, and there is no public defender service.  Two 
NGO's--the University of Botswana Legal Assistance Center and 
the Botswana Center for Human Rights--provide pro bono legal 
services, but their capacity is limited.  Constitutional 
protections do not apply to illegal immigrants, although the 
constitutionality of denying due process to illegal immigrants 
has not been tested in court.

While the Government does not use exile for political purposes, 
it has expelled foreigners on political grounds, declaring 
foreigners who criticize government policy prohibited 
immigrants--a ruling from the office of the President for which 
there is no appeal process.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Botswana has two court systems, the civil courts and the 
customary (traditional) courts.  While the Constitution 
provides for due process, the civil courts, which include 
magistrates' courts and the Court of Appeal, are not able to 
provide for timely fair trial in many cases.  In 1994 these 
courts continued to face acute resource shortages and a lack of 
trained personnel, leading to enormous backlogs, over a year in 
many capital cases and longer in lesser offenses.

Most trials in the regular courts are public, although trials 
under the National Security Act (NSA) may be held in secret.  
As a rule, the courts appoint public defenders only for those 
persons charged with capital crimes (murder and treason); those 
charged with noncapital crimes are often tried without legal 
representation if they cannot afford an attorney.  As a result, 
many defendants are not informed of their rights in pretrial or 
trial proceedings.

Botswana's civil courts operate with a high degree of 
independence.  They are largely unhampered by corruption and 
rarely susceptible to political influence.  However, judicial 
authority has been undermined by the Government's continued 
reluctance to abide by a 1992 decision of the High Court that 
the Citizenship Act is unconstitutional because it 
discriminates against women.  International human rights 
monitors criticized the Government for its failure to revise 
the law and respect the Court's ruling (see Sections 2.d. and 
5).  The Government has yet to declare publicly how it will 
implement the High Court's decision.  President Masire has made 
a commitment to address the issue in 1995.

During the debate preceding adoption of the 1994 Anticorruption 
Bill, some human rights organizations expressed concern that, 
in the case of those accused of misuse of government resources, 
the bill would weaken the constitutional provision providing 
for the defendants' presumption of innocence.

Most citizens encounter the legal system through the customary 
courts under the nominal authority of a traditional leader.  
These courts handle minor offenses involving land, marital, and 
property disputes.  In these courts, the defendant does not 
have legal counsel, and there are no precise rules of 
evidence.  Tribal judges, appointed by the traditional leader 
or elected by the community, determine sentences, which may be 
appealed through the civil court system.  The quality of 
decisions reached in the traditional courts varies 
considerably.  In communities where chiefs are respected, their 
decisions are respected; in communities where the chiefs are 
not respected, people seek justice from the civil courts.

The Government held no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the protection of privacy and the 
security of the person, and the Government respects these 
rights.  While judicial search warrants are normally required, 
police officers above the rank of sergeant may enter, search, 
and seize property if they have reasonable grounds to suspect 
that evidence might be destroyed or that a crime is in 
progress.  Evidence gathered without a search warrant is 
admissible in court, but judges may and do disqualify such 
evidence if it can be shown that the police had time to obtain 
a warrant.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, both 
individual and corporate, but also permits restrictions on 
these freedoms "reasonably required in the interests of 
defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or 
public health."  Botswana has a long tradition of vigorous and 
candid public discourse, and the Government has not used this 
constitutional provision to place unreasonable restrictions on 
speech or press.

However, the broadcast media remain a government monopoly, with 
radio the most important medium of information in this highly 
dispersed society.  Radio Botswana follows government policies 
and draws most of its stories from the official Botswana Press 
Agency (BOPA).  Opposition leaders have access to the radio, 
but they complain--with some justification--that their 
broadcast time is severely limited.  The Government also 
subsidizes a free daily newspaper which depends heavily on BOPA 
for its material.

The independent press is small but lively and frequently 
critical of the Government and the President.  It reports 
without fear of closure, censorship, or intimidation.  There 
are no privately owned radio or television stations, but there 
is a semilegal television station broadcasting mostly pirated 
programs to viewers in the capital city.  Independent radio and 
television from neighboring South Africa are easily received.

On occasion the Government has taken steps, under loosely 
defined provisions of the NSA, to limit publication of national 
security information.  The Attorney General did not take any 
action during 1994 in the case involving two journalists 
accused of violating the NSA in 1993, in part because one of 
the reporters was abroad on a scholarship.

The Government also has leverage over the independent press 
through advertising placed by state-owned enterprises.  Within 
the Government, there has been some discussion of withdrawing 
such advertising from the independent media, but no such action 
had been taken by year's end.

There are no limits placed on academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and the 
Government respects this right in practice.  Police 
authorization is needed to hold public demonstrations, but the 
authorities withhold permission only in limited cases and then 
exclusively for the sake of public safety.  Although 
associations must officially register, the Government has not 
used the registration process to delay, harass, or otherwise 
impede group formation.  There are a multiplicity of political 
parties, labor unions, and civic associations

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for this freedom, and people worship 
freely in practice.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no barriers to domestic and international travel or 
migration.  Citizenship is not revoked for political reasons, 
although once voluntarily relinquished, it can only be regained 
through naturalization.

Citizenship provisions of the  Nationality Law discriminate 
against women and have been severely criticized by human rights 
groups, as well as being the object of legal action (see 
Section 5).

The Government does not repatriate refugees against their will, 
nor will it forcibly expel those who have applied for, but 
failed to gain, refugee status.  Those granted refugee or 
asylum status are treated well, but some failed asylum seekers 
have been detained without charge for up to 2 years in the same 
facilities and cells as convicted felons.  The Government 
cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) and other international refugee organizations, 
but it generally applies stricter criteria to asylum seekers 
than does the UNHCR.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government.  In 
practice, one party--the BDP--has dominated the lower chamber 
of Parliament, the National Assembly, since independence, 
although its representation in the Assembly was reduced in the 
October 15 multiparty general elections, in which it won 27 of 
the 40 elected seats.  While eight parties contested the 
election, only the BNF, with 13 seats, joined the BDP in 
Parliament.  There are also four appointed seats.  The BNF's 
recent performance at the polls (increasing its parliamentary 
presence from 3 to 13 seats) reflected a strong following in 
urban areas.  Parliament elects the President.  Citizens 21 
years of age and older may vote, using a secret ballot.

The House of Chiefs, a ceremonial upper chamber of Parliament 
with limited advisory powers, is constitutionally restricted to 
the eight "principal tribes" of the Tswana nation.  
Consequently, other groups of Botswana citizens, e.g., the 
Basarwa (widely known as "bushmen"), Herero, Kalanga, 
Humbukush, Baloi or Lozi, are not represented in the House of 
Chiefs.  Given the limited authority of the House of Chiefs, 
the impact of this discrimination is largely symbolic, but it 
is viewed as important in principle by a number of non-Batswana.

Members of the National Assembly are required to be able to 
speak English, and one prospective candidate for a seat 
representing a Basarwa constituency was not nominated by his 
party for this reason.  This restriction has never been 
challenged in court.

Women are also underrepresented in the political process.  
Although women constitute just over 50 percent of the 
population, only 3 of 44 National Assembly seats are occupied 
by women, and only 2 women are in the Cabinet.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government does not prevent local and international 
organizations from investigating human rights abuses in 
Botswana, nor does it make any attempt to suppress any critical 
publications.  Local human rights groups operate openly and 
independently.  They freely use the independent media to 
publicize their findings, which are often critical of the 
Government.  Organizations such as Human Rights Watch/Africa 
and Amnesty International have criticized certain practices in 
Botswana.  The Government often disputes the conclusions of 
NGO's but does not attempt to prevent them from being debated.  
Officers from international human rights groups enter and 
depart Botswana freely.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution and Penal Code forbid discrimination on the 
basis of ethnicity, nationality, or creed but do not address 
discrimination based on sex.

     Women

Women in Botswana do not have the same civil rights as men.  A 
prominent illustration of this is the highly publicized Unity 
Dow lawsuit challenging Botswana's citizenship laws.  Attorney 
Unity Dow, a female citizen of Botswana married to an 
expatriate, filed a successful suit challenging the 
constitutionality of Botswana's Nationality Law.  Under that 
Law, a Motswana woman married to a non-Motswana could not 
transmit Botswana citizenship to her child whereas a Motswana 
man in the same situation could do so.  Although the High Court 
declared the law unconstitutional, the Government has since 
failed to take action to pass a new law which would treat male 
and female citizen parents equally with respect to transmission 
of citizenship to their children.  In an effort to force 
government action, Unity Dow has since applied for a passport 
for her child, but the authorities had declined to act on that 
application by year's end.

A number of other laws, many of which are attributed to 
traditional practices, restrict civil and economic 
opportunities for women.  Women married in "common property" 
are held to be legal minors, requiring their husbands' consent 
to buy or sell property, apply for credit, and enter into 
legally binding contracts.  Women have, and are increasingly 
exercising, the right to marriage "out of common property," in 
which case they retain their full legal rights as adults.  
Polygyny is still legal under traditional law and with the 
consent of the first wife, but it is rarely practiced.

Well-trained urban women enjoy growing entry-level access to 
the white-collar job market, but the number of opportunities 
decreases sharply as they rise in seniority.  Discrimination 
against women is most acute in rural areas where women work 
primarily in subsistence agriculture.

Violence against women, primarily beatings, remains a serious 
problem in Botswana.  Under customary law and in common rural 
practice, men have the right to "chastise" their wives.  
Statistics are believed to underreport the true level of abuse 
against women.  Police are rarely called to intervene in cases 
of domestic violence, and there were no cases in which a wife 
filed criminal charges against an abusive husband in 1994.  
Spouse abuse does not receive widespread media attention.

A number of women's organizations have emerged to promote the 
status of women.  The groups vary considerably in their 
membership, philosophy, and tactics.  The Government has been 
slow to respond concretely to issues raised by these groups.

     Children

The rights of children are addressed in the Constitution and 
the 1981 Children's Act.  Under the Act, Botswana has a court 
system and social service apparatus designed solely for 
juveniles.  There is no pattern of societal abuse against 
children.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Tswana majority, of which the Constitution recognizes eight 
"principal tribes," has a tradition of peacefully coexisting 
with "minor" tribes, chief among which are the Kalanga who 
represent some 25 percent of the population.  Each of the eight 
principal tribes is represented in the advisory House of 
Chiefs, while other groups are permitted only a subchief, who 
is not a member of the House.  Other than the lack of schooling 
in their own language and representation in the House of 
Chiefs, Botswana's Bantu minorities and nonindigenous 
minorities, such as the white and Asian communities, are not 
subject to discrimination.  However, the nomadic Basarwa remain 
marginalized and have lost access to their traditional land.  
The Basarwa are vulnerable to exploitation, and their 
isolation, ignorance of civil rights, and lack of 
representation in local or national government have stymied 
their progress.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not require accessibility to public 
buildings and conveyances for people with disabilities, and the 
NGO community has only recently begun to press for more 
government attention to the needs of the disabled.  The 
Government does not discriminate on the basis of physical or 
mental handicap, although employment opportunities for the 
disabled remain limited.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of association, and in 
practice all workers, with the exception of government 
employees, are free to join or organize unions of their own 
choosing.  Government workers may form associations that 
function as quasi-unions but without the right to negotiate 
wages.  The industrial or wage economy is small, and unions are 
concentrated largely in the mineral, and to a lesser extent, in 
the railway and banking sectors.  There is only one major 
confederation, the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), 
but unions are free to form other confederations.

Unions are independent of the Government and are not closely 
allied with any political party or movement.  Unions may employ 
administrative staff, but the law requires elected union 
officials to work full time in the industry the union 
represents.  This severely limits union leaders' 
professionalism and effectiveness and has been criticized by 
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

In addition, the law severely restricts the right to strike.  
Legal strikes are theoretically possible after an exhaustive 
arbitration process, but in practice none of the country's 
strikes to date has been legal.  Employees of two banks, one 
private and one state owned, staged strikes in December.  At 
year's end, both actions were unresolved.

Unions may join international organizations, and the BFTU is 
affiliated with the ICFTU.  The Minister of Labor must approve 
any affiliation with an outside labor movement, but unions may 
appeal to the courts if an application for affiliation is 
refused.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for collective bargaining for unions 
that have enrolled 25 percent of a labor force.  In reality, 
only the mineworker unions have the organizational strength to 
engage in collective bargaining, and collective bargaining is 
virtually nonexistent in most other sectors.

Workers may not be fired for union-related activities, and 
dismissed workers may appeal to labor officers or civil 
courts.  However, labor officers rarely do more than order
2 months' severance pay.

Botswana has only one export processing zone--in the town of 
Selebi-Phikwe--which is subject to the same labor laws as the 
rest of the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically forbids forced or compulsory 
labor, and it is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Although education is not compulsory, the Government provides
7 years of free education to every child, and most children in 
Botswana take advantage of this opportunity.  Only an immediate 
family member may employ a child 13 years old or younger, and 
no juvenile under 15 may be employed in any industry.  Only 
persons over 16 may be hired to perform night work, and no 
person under 16 is allowed to assume hazardous labor, including 
in mining.  District and municipal councils have child welfare 
divisions that are responsible for enforcing child labor laws.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum monthly wage for full-time labor is $100 (270 
Pula), which is just under 50 percent of what the Government 
calculates is necessary to meet the basic needs of a family of 
five.  The Ministry of Labor is nominally responsible for 
enforcing the minimum wage, but there were no known cases in 
which the Ministry took actions against an employer paying less 
in 1994.

Formal sector jobs almost always pay well above minimum wage 
levels.  Informal sector employment, particularly in the 
agricultural and domestic service sectors, where housing and 
food are included, frequently pay below the minimum wage.  
Illegal immigrants, primarily Zimbabweans and Zambians, are 
easily exploited as they would be subject to arbitrary and 
immediate deportation if they filed grievances against 
employers.

Botswana law permits a maximum 48-hour workweek, exclusive of 
overtime which is payable at time and a half for each 
additional hour.  Most modern private and public sector jobs 
are on the 40-hour workweek.

Workers who complain about hazardous conditions cannot be 
fired.  The Government's institutional ability to enforce its 
workplace safety legislation remains limited, however, by 
inadequate staffing and unclear jurisdictions between different 
ministries.  Nevertheless, worker safety is generally provided 
for by employers, with the occasionally notable exception of 
the construction industry.

(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.