I nonetheless took him through the General Orders that permits such a practice and further took him through the Public Service Act of 2008 that essentially abolishes such a practice.
The General Orders, in particular Section 158.2 provides as follows:
“In the case of persons recruited from outside Botswana the medical examination including x-ray of the chest and HIV/AIDS test MUST be undergone on arrival in Botswana. Should a recruit be found to be suffering from a communicable infection or a debilitating illness or otherwise fail the medical examination, this will be a ground for non-confirmation or cancellation of contract and for the repatriation of the recruit at the Government expense”.
In terms of Section 7 (e) of the Public Service Act, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of health status.
“7. Human resource management standards
In making decisions in respect of the appointment, or other matters affecting human resource management, every appointing authority and every supervising officer shall--
(e) not discriminate against any employee on the basis of sex, race, tribe, place of origin, national extraction, social origin, colour, creed, political opinion, marital status, health status, disability, pregnancy or any other ground, nor discriminate against any person seeking employment in the public service on any such ground.”
The question is our government not discriminating against foreigners on the basis of their origin and health status? It seems obvious to me that the answer to this question is in the affirmative. This is a clear cut case of discrimination and the visually impaired can see it as well. The law takes precedence over the General Orders. The Public Service Act has set aside the practice emanating from the General Orders. Any tests carried out by government post the new Public Service Act are unlawful as they violate it. It baffles my mind that government would violate the law in this manner. It is worthy of note that contracts for employment of non-citizens are normally for two years. Denying them employment on the basis of their employment pre-supposes that they are dying tomorrow. I must stress that I am not saying that government should hire unfit foreigners but rather saying that being HIV positive does not mean one is unfit. Is my government of dignity saying that foreigners have no rights to privacy and to non-discrimination like Batswana? Is that what Botho is all about? Should we cry out loud as Batswana when countries such as Cuba test our students for HIV when we in fact test their doctors when they are recruited for employment in the Public Service? Is that not double standards on our part? Do we have credibility to complain?
As I conclude, I wish to point out that the body of medicine has grown exponentially and we do now have drugs that are quite affordable in the management of HIV. Some of them cost as little as P190 per month. I believe that foreigners that are HIV positive can choose to buy them themselves or agree with the government to procure them on their behalf and deduct the monies from their salary if the government is worried about costs. I however do not think that costs are an issue because this practice came into being in the 1990s before money or recession was an issue. At any rate government is prepared to send back recruits to their countries using tax payers money if found to be HIV positive. It would have been prudent for the government if it was serious about cost saving by ensuring that they enter into contracts with doctors and laboratories at the places of origin of the foreigners to do the medical examinations. Imagine recruiting someone from America and cover their costs of coming to Botswana only to tell them that they are HIV positive and therefore are not being confirmed but rather repatriated. It is illogical! Worst still, that person might have resigned to come to Botswana only to go back home jobless.