Botswana National Front (BNF) has condemned what they called an onslaught on basic fundamental freedoms, by state security apparatus following the whipping and arrest of youth who demonstrated in front of parliament this week.
The BNF leadership say they witnessed an insatiable appetite on the part of state organs to disperse peaceful gatherings by beating up protesters.
When addressing members of the media this week, BNF Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa noted that it must be a concern to all when state security apparatus resort to violence against its people, and thereby trampling upon basic freedoms of association and to assemble.
Mohwasa stressed that the importance of freedom of assembly cannot be underscored in any democratic society such as Botswana’s.
“Lately, we have witnessed a narrowing of the civic space in Botswana. Peaceful protests which seek to communicate a legitimate societal scourge of unemployment cannot be dispersed with sjamboks and violence in the manner that we have witnessed recently. As the BNF, we hold dear the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” said Mohwasa.
The BNF Secretary General added that there was need to contextualize the unemployment protests which are spearheaded by the unemployed, yet qualified youths of Botswana.
He said the BNF characterize the protests as a welcome move by youths who seek to enforce and remind the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government of its obligation imposed by the social contract.
Mohwasa argued that the BDP government has, for many years, ignored its obligations as far as as the social contract is concerned.
“Instead of discharging its obligations by creating equitable and dignified employment opportunities, the BDP led government has, through its policies, sidelined our population from the mainstream economic activity. It is worrisome and disturbing that journalists have not escaped the wrath and brutality of the state security apparatus,” Mohwasa added.
After learning of the confiscation of equipment and other work related materials of journalists who covered the unemployment protests, Mohwasa is of the view that Botswana’s democracy is being derailed.
He said there is no law which empowers the police to confiscate material used by journalists in their line of duty.
For his part, Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) president Richard ‘Motsabakedi’ Khumoekae, who was at parliament during the protests said the unemployment protesters posed no threat to national security and peace. He said it is only a barbaric government that responds to a peaceful protest with violence.
He further took a swipe at the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Thapelo Olopeng for not prioritizing youth unemployment.
“Olopeng is a populist Minister and has no priorities on the youth. He is a minister of Sports and Culture. We need a Minister of Youth who will deal with issues of youth, such as unemployment directly,” lambasted Khumoekae.
The BNF further applauded the fearless youth who participated in the peaceful protest at parliament precincts, further calling on government to consider dialogue and constructive engagements with the leaders of the unemployment protest movement.
The chorus against police brutality continued at the Gaborone bus rank on Wednesday afternoon as more BNF activists castigated the law enforcers.
Acting BNF Vice President, Reverend Dr Prince Dibeela, said he was disappointed by the police for arresting the unemployed youth and journalist.
“I have realized that it is the last kicking’s of a dying horse for the government. They have noticed that Batswana have made a decision to change the government. Changes should start now, therefore I encourage all the youth either from BNF, BMD or BCP and churches to rescue us from this governance,” he echoed.
Dibeela said the Botswana Democratic Party promised the youth in 2014 general elections campaigns that they would create employment when they are voted, and that people are within their rights to approach the government to seek employment.
“I want to assure the police that the youth are not against the police, we have progressive forces who are with us in this journey,” he elucidated.