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Anti-human trafficking laws review ongoing

16 Mar 2023

Review of anti-human trafficking legislation to cater for the ever-changing nature of the human trafficking related criminal acts as well as transnational crimes that continue to increase remains critical.

Presenting Ministry of Justice budget proposals for the 2023/2024 financial year on Wednesday, Minister Machana Shamukuni said it was on such a background that the ministry had embarked on review of the anti-human trafficking legislation in efforts to strengthen it.

“Transnational crime continues to increase as a threat to national security and a deterrence to normal human life activities which are meant to improve livelihoods hence the need to review the legislation,” Mr Shamukuni said.

On other issues, the minister informed Parliament that the country continued to provide refuge for asylum seekers, noting that there were 725 refugees in Botswana.

“Compared to previous years, the number of refugees in the country has declined as a reasonable number were returned to their respective countries through a successful exercise of voluntary repatriation. It is a norm that whenever the situation normalises, refugees are encouraged to return to their countries of origin,” he said.

He stated that in the next financial year, over P6.4 million would be used on activities relating to welfare of refugees in the country.

“The ministry will embark on projects to ensure safety of refugees in the country,” he added.

Moreover, he said as a newly established ministry, though tasked with responsibilities that had been there before, they were on a recruitment drive in order to be well equipped and function accordingly.

He said a consultant was engaged to analyse the current status of the justice sector and one of the projects being undertaken was a study primarily aimed at creating a child-friendly justice system.

He also assured Parliament that the ministry was taking into consideration the concerns of the society.

“One of the long awaited issues which is being tackled is the review of the process of allowing criminals to be admitted on bail while awaiting finalisation of the case,” he said.

Again, the minister indicated that the proceeds and instruments of crime from the crime division were accordingly executed. He said under the current financial year, the crime division had executed 42 court orders for seizure and return of diverse property valued at P136. 8 million.

He said in January this year, about P2.8 million was confiscated in the assets trust funds while the receiver was proposed to get over P12.9 million in the next financial year for maintenance of seized movable and immovable property.

Commenting on the budget estimates, Member of Parliament of Okavango, Mr Kenny Kapinga said even though the ministry was new, the responsible minister must ensure that justice was served.

“It is unfortunate to observe that of recent, some individuals are being held in high regard and are boastful of the fact that they are living lavish lifestyles through proceeds of crime. What we see in our country is that people are getting rich through crime. Enforce the law honourable minister and make it a point that our people understand that crime does not pay.

We cannot build our people by cultivating a culture that people can enrich themselves through crime. It is unjust to allow people to enrich themselves unlawfully,” said Mr Kapinga.

For his part, MP for Mochudi West, Mr Mmusi Kgafela applauded the decision to review the law relating to bail. Even though viewed as a positive move which would go a long way in arresting recurring criminal acts, Mr Kgafela said there were two opposing issues to carefully consider.

He said while the law allowed for an accused person who was presumed innocent until proven guilty to be given all the rights that he deserved, the law must not on the other hand compromise the pursuit of controlling crime.

On human trafficking Mr Kgafela said it was a new phenomenon in Botswana. He said the criminal practice was intertwined with recruitment of cheap labour and sex work.

Mr Kgafela argued that availability of market kept the crime alive and therefore becoming a profitable mode of trade.

“Sex work and the fact that its consumer base was increasing will continue to create a market for human trafficking,” he warned.

Also contributing to the debate, Mr Dumezweni Mthimkhulu of Gaborone South said emphasis on abiding by the law was critical.

Mr Mthimkhulu said the public trusted in the country’s justice system while the courts of laws were making decisions without undue influence.

Francistown South Legislator, Mr Wynter Mmolotsi on one hand, challenged the Minister of Justice to ensure that the country was governed by the rule of law.

“The law must not be used in favour of others and unnecessarily be used to punish others. It is unfortunate that some government departments appear to be above the law. Government is losing a lot of funds through lawsuits as a result of matters that were not handled in accordance with provisions of the law by law enforcement departments like the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS),” Mr Mmolotsi said.

On refugees, Mr Mmolotsi observed that some had their children born, raised and schooled in the country but government was not supporting them to enrol for tertiary education.

“Review of the laws relating to refugees must take this situation into consideration,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice’s budget for the 2023/2024 financial year comprise over P175 million and over P46.8 million as recurrent and development  estimates respectively. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Moshe Galeragwe

Location : GABORONE

Event : Parliament

Date : 16 Mar 2023