The Government of Botswana wishes to express its serious concern about the events that occurred outside the National Assembly on Monday 8 August 2016, where some individuals conducted themselves in a manner that had the effect of undermining public order. Although police investigations are ongoing, I considered it appropriate as the Minister responsible for public order and law enforcement to share my concerns with Honourable Members, with a view to soliciting their assistance in this regard. Whilst the Constitution of Botswana provides for the right to freedom of assembly and association, it must be noted that this right is subject to certain limitations, such as laws regulating public order and safety.
To this end, a number of laws have been enacted with a view to maintaining public order, such as some sections of the Penal Code dealing with Unlawful Assemblies, Riots and other Offences against Public Tranquility. Similarly, the Public Order Act, CAP 22:02 is intended to regulate and control public meetings and public processions, by, among others, giving the police powers, in section 4, to take steps to ensure the preservation of public order. These legal provisions and their implementation by various government agencies have served this country well, and ensured that we enjoy the peace and stability for which Botswana has been recognized and commended internationally.
I wish to appeal to all Batswana, in particular leaders such as ourselves, Honourable members of this House, to play a positive role in ensuring that public order is maintained, and that law enforcement agencies are able to execute their duties under the law, without hindrance, fear or intimidation. Members of this House must lead by example and not be seen to be doing anything that directly or indirectly undermines the law, or encourages members of the public to do so. In particular, Standing Order 35 of this House provides a clear procedure for the presentation of petitions, and this, and other Standing Orders, must be adhered to if we are not to descend into disorder and anarchy.
Hon. Shaw Kgathi, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security
A group of some youth claiming to be aggrieved by lack of unemployment, gathered at the National Assembly, apparently to picket and send a message regarding their situation, to members of parliament. The group had not applied for a permit to assemble, as such, their gathering was unlawful, hence the involvement of the police to address the situation. The gathering had about thirty (30) people who also attracted a few older sympathizers, some bystanders and journalists from some local media houses. At least some four (4) Members of Parliament (MPs) also took turns to address the picketers and these were Hon. P. Butale, Hon. D. Keorapetse, Hon. I. Davids and Hon. P. Mokgware. In addition, Mr. M.C. Rakgare, who is the Botswana Congress Party Youth League President, was among the sympathisers.
The four MPs took turns to address the picketers on the spot and informed them that they have the right to picket as they were not breaking any law. Mr. Rakgare was also captured on video saying that the Police were violating the rights of the picketers and further indicated that soon they will also come armed to match the Police and the latter will incur casualties as a result. At around 1430hrs, the Police ordered the group to disperse within 10 minutes, but they did not do so. They continued to argue with the Police until the Police dispersed them by force at around 1530hrs. Four of the protesters were arrested and released this morning pending assessment of the case by the DPP. The four are;
• B/C/M Ogaufi Ali Kerekang aged 31yrs of H/No. 18990, Phase 2, unemployed.
• B/C/M Khumoekae Richard aged 28yrs. A Senior Administration Officer at Gaborone Central Constituency office.
• B/C/M Jones Banda aged 26yrs of Mmopane Village. Unemployed.
• B/C/M Tlamelo Tsurupe aged 23yrs of H/No. 8531, Tsolamosese.
Upon dispersal, some over forty (40) demonstrators reemerged at Central Police Station, still holding their placards, obviously following their colleagues who were arrested at the same station, to show their solidarity. MPs Butale and Keorapetse, in the company of a Mr. Lekgowe, who alleged to be the legal representative of the four, also came to the Police Station demanding to know the reasons for the arrest of those detained. The crowd eventually dispersed later, without any adverse incident.