The Alliance for Progressives joins the African community in commemorating the Day of the African Child under the Theme: ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’. This year the day comes under a climate of intense uneasiness due to the heavy blows meted on our society by the coronavirus.
We continue to witness ordinary people being exposed to an unjust system as the virus lays bare the unjust and unequal society we live in today. We have seen how those who have no means to fend for themselves are left to literally die of hunger. The poverty and lack of means to, at the bare minimum, buy food for oneself is an injustice and violence on our own people, and this anomaly should not be tolerated. We must ensure that every African child has basics such as food and shelter for survival during this difficult time.
Just recently it was revealed that violence against women and children has skyrocketed during the lockdown period. This was also accompanied by a shocking number of abuses suffered mostly by young girls at the hands of people supposed to be their guardians. These acts show a decay in the moral fiber of the nation that needs to be arrested before it gets out of hand.
We saw, and continue to see the Government standing with big business and denying the ordinary man access to dignified ways of surviving. While big businesses claim for subsidies from Government, the informal sector gets nothing, but non-committal word that they will be awarded loans “post coronavirus”. While big businesses are allowed to trade during lockdown (as they have sway over Government decision making) it is our people in the informal sector (the majority of whom are young people) who are left out. Why is there no special dispensation for them as well, just as supermarkets are allowed to trade? This behaviour by Government is not only unjust and distasteful, but a serious abdication of responsibility.
Our Education sector has been dealt a big blow with students having missed almost 3 months of schoolwork. Given how terrible our Education system is, even in “normal time”, this is a grave injustice as the fate of some students will by the end of the year be sealed with poverty. Had calls from Progressive voices been heeded, we would not have to worry as we could now be continuing the studies using online means.
In commemorating this day, we are confronted with the painful reality that accountability and transparency continue to be swept under the rug. It becomes evident with each passing day that the coronavirus crisis has been used by those in Government as a looting tool where overnight companies are registered and awarded tenders without due process. This injustice continues, where structures are built at astronomical figures and no investigations are done to explain the “obvious” corruption. The hard pill to swallow is that, it is the ordinary citizen who bears the brunt of some mismanagement of resources by directionless leaders.
We recall the bravery of the South African youths of 1976, who stood up and declared that the injustices they faced under the brutal apartheid regime had to come to an end. That declaration came to be realized. Yet the African Child still faces brutality from those who are supposed to liberate them. It is a stark reminder that, the fight is not yet over.
As Progressives, we are for a united and vibrant Africa that marches in unison towards agenda
2063. An Africa where there is rule of law and respect for human rights. We desire an Africa that is economically just. We opine that to achieve this Africa needs to trade more with herself, hence we urge the Botswana government to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to ensure its success. The recent escalation of tensions in United States of America, due to centuries of police violence and injustices meted upon the USA’s Black community should strengthen our unity and self-love as Africans. We must unequivocally condemn such injustices. It must also be a lesson to us in Africa to reform our own police and justice departments to eliminate police brutality and ensure justice is served.
We have opined before that what we need for a New Botswana is a new strategy with these elements - value proposition, high impact flagship projects, a definitive governance culture and philosophy. We seek to cultivate and deploy, a specific job and growth agenda. This is the groundwork that must be done to realize that child friendly justice system.
We take this instance to reiterate our call for a truly independent Judiciary, especially from the overbearing influence of our very powerful Executive branch of government. We need a new system where judges can be appointed by a process spearheaded by a Special Judicial Commission. Another long overdue institution to ensure a friendly justice system in Botswana is the Constitutional Court. We urge government to institute this court so that it can sufficiently deal with a litany of injustices faced by Batswana.
In conclusion, as the country continues to grapple with the Covid19 scourge, AP sends regards to all the frontline workers; doctors, nurses, BURS officers, soldiers, policemen, truck drivers, social workers, and all others. We cannot thank you enough for your gallant and fearless sacrifice for the nation. We appeal to the nation to continue adhering to health protocols and also diligently follow preventative measures such as social distancing in order to fight this pandemic and ultimately emerge victorious against this deadly virus. Together, we shall overcome.
Phenyo Butale (PhD) Secretary General