COMMENTARY: Which offence has Salbany committed?

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 January 2016   |   By Staff Writer
COMMENTARY: Which offence has Salbany committed?

Private attorney Joao Salbany joins a growing list of professionals who earned the wrath of government in the course of their work and ultimately paid with a rejection of their work and residence permit applications. During President Sir Ketumile Masire’s tenure journalists were deported for writing ill of the Government. During President Festus Mogae’s time one major deportation was that of academic Professor Kenneth Good for his critical views against the political leadership, in particular about Mogae and Ian Khama. Under the current administration deportations and cancellations or denial of permits has reached alarming levels. Business Botswana and incoming investors have observed this as among other reasons why foreign investors are beginning to look elsewhere with their investment as they cannot be sure of how long they would be welcomed in the country.

The current investors in the country are increasingly worried; with some reportedly choosing to disinvest from areas that could become too complicated were they to be forced to wind up at short notice. The question is which offence has Salbany committed against the country, having had many renewals of his applications over the years – having been in Botswana for 16 years! He most definitely knows, as a legal person, what constitutes criminal offences. We take it that if he had done anything in this line the arms of the law would have long taken action against him. What now remains as possible transgression is the recent case in which he represented Botswana Gazette newspaper in a case in which the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) raided the offices of the newspaper in an attempt to stop it from publishing some information that involved a subject they were investigating. Salbany stood his ground – legally and in person – to stop the state agents from abusing their power.

He was later detained for hours in a police cell on grounds that he obstructed the state agents from executing their duties. At this stage he has not been convicted of any crime though and it is him who has served state with papers for unfair detention and harassment. Salbany is but one statistic of foreigners who came to the country and served its people. The denial of his applications means that many of his clients are being denied representation before the courts. He is not the first lawyer who fell victim of the country intolerant and often abused immigration policies. Basarwa lawyer Gordon Bennett was at the height of their case against Government slapped with unexpected VISA requirements. And hence he could no longer represent his clients as they had desired. For the Botswana Gazette and other media houses that he represents, this is a clear denial of legal representation. It essentially infringes on the freedom of the press to defend itself.   

We are not in any way in a blatant campaign to have the country open its doors to undesirable elements that would include even terrorists. We support strict security measures to ensure that this country is jealously protected. The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) should continue to be as vigilant as possible in their vetting process of applicants. However, DISS and its principals should guard against abuse of power that often results with harmless people being denied entry into this country. We need as much foreign direct investment as possible to create jobs and grow the economy. It is these kinds of actions that will ultimately cost Botswana citizens heavily when they attempt to seek entry and residence in other countries. Why should other nations welcome us when we have so much contempt against their people?