Today – August 8 - I spent most of the evening at the Central Police Station where a host of people were arrested for showing up at a peaceful march against unemployment that was held earlier in the day. Those arrested included journalists, among them Reginald Richardson, and youth who had picketed in front parliament. The protesters had embarked on a non-violent march drawing attention to the public about the high levels of unemployment in the country. On the other hand the police met the protesters with full force and used whips to beat the youth. In the process journalists who were covering the event were also arrested and one of them was being coerced into deleting footage of the police beating the youth.
This is painful and the brutality used by the police is uncalled-for. Picketing is an internationally accepted means of expressing disenchantment within democratic systems. However, the behaviour of the police this afternoon was appalling and indefensible. First, it was a clear assault at media freedom and the government of Botswana should be exposed for this intolerable attitude. Secondly, we are most upset at the provocation and violence meted against the youth. One of those who have been detained overnight on the frivolous charges of ‘public nuisance’ is the President of the Botswana National Front Youth League Cde Khumoekae Richard. We condemn his arrest and those with him and call for their immediate release.
Whilst at the Central Police Station it became apparent that the police were in a state of confusion regarding the charges the detainees were supposed to be facing. When we asked for answers we were sent from pillar to post without any clarity on what was happening. What was even alarming the most was the claim by a certain Officer Montshioa that nobody was arrested when we all knew that people had indeed been detained. It is high time the Botswana Police start behaving like a community service organization they claim to be. The hostility that we met today was uncalled for. Further, the police have to start accounting for their behaviour and stop hiding behind the claim that ‘they were simply following orders.’ As professionals they ought to be equipped to probe situations and take appropriate action rather than be used to execute actions that are clearly immoral. We will all account for our actions some day and it will not suffice to explain them away as orders.
We call on all progressive forces to increase pressure on the BDP regime to seriously address issues such as unemployment, the gap between the rich and the poor, poverty and corruption. Batswana should stand up and express their displeasure through marches and other public demonstrations. The BNF will not be intimidated nor discouraged by these unreasonable arrests on innocent Batswana until the poor citizens are freed from the undemocratic and gross corrupt BDP practices. The 50 years anniversary has become a sore wound instead of a celebration.
Dr Prince Dibeela - BNF Acting President