'Bring back FoI Bill'

A three-day workshop by Centre for Human Rights (CHR) has recommended the ever-present need to resuscitate the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, which without a revisit, is incongruous with government taking pride in democratic norms.

Moreover, repackaging it to adopt a more human rights approach in line with the regional and international human rights standards would bring out eminent liberties immanent in democratic practice and good governance.

The workshop, from September 2 to 4, 2019, was held in collaboration with Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern African Development Community (SADC), University of Pretoria and the University of Botswana.

A PhD candidate and researcher for the Democracy, Transparency and Digital Rights Unit, Marystella Simiyu said the participants agreed that there was need to improve civil society engagement in Botswana to allow for better collaboration not, only on advocacy around access to information, but also on the whole spectrum of human rights.

“Encourage citizen activism through human rights education so as to build a citizenry that is conscious of, and actively participates in, democratic development,” Simiyu said.

Botswana Centre for Public Integrity (BCPI) executive director Pusetso Morapedi said their organisation got involved in the electoral cycle during the registration period.

“We believe that when people know better they do better, therefore raising awareness on issues of public interest is at the core of our work.  Creating spaces for discussions, doing presentations on participatory democracy and what it ought to look like is our work, to have more people engaging with politics, not just party politics, but politics in terms of distribution of resources in the state. 

We would like to see a Botswana where people benefit from public goods and services, regardless of class and status, and this can happen when people tune in.  Our efforts are to empower them to tune in, scrutinise, ask questions and eventually demand more for themselves,” Morapedi said.

Morapedi called on young people to always take the window of opportunity to register to vote whenever it presents itself, even if the leadership disillusions them.  He encourages them to always register and decide on their fate the day of the election.

She explained that the distribution of resources is directly linked to chosen leaders, therefore an informed nation that critically looks at things and balances them out helps build a robust democracy that has a symbiotic relationship with the state and government.

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