Selebi Phikwe — Botswana has made progress in addressing human trafficking through the Anti -Human Trafficking Act of 2014.
This was said by Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Mr Kgotla Autlwetse at the North East District councillors and law enforcement officers anti human trafficking and data collection workshop held in Selebi Phikwe on Tuesday.
The act, he said, was a direct response to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
Mr Autlwetse said the act has since been amended so as to comply with the Eastern and Southern African Anti- Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG).
Included is a section which criminalises smuggling of persons with penalties ranging from P200 000 to P500 000 and prison terms of 15 years to life in the event the offence resulted in loss of life.
The assistant minister said government was aware of factors exacerbating human trafficking such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, humanitarian emergencies, sexual violence, gender discrimination and culture of tolerance towards violence against women.
He said President Mokgweetsi Masisi had therefore pledged that his government would seek to build a Botswana in which sustained development was underpinned by economic diversification and eradication of poverty in order to build a society providing opportunity and dignity for all.
This, he said, if achieved, would prevent people from being lured to fall victim to human trafficking under the pretext of good paying jobs or greener pastures in other countries.
Mr Autlwetse said government was cognisant of the negative effects of human trafficking in society and the threat it presented to the economy and the planned development agenda of the nation.
"The National Development Plan 11 (NDP 11), specifically under Chapter 8- 'Governance, Safety and Security' declares human trafficking as a serious security challenge that is both local and transnational," he said.
Mr Autlwetse said at regional level, SADC member states were working closely to enhance cooperation, information sharing and experiences on how best to arrest the transnational organised crime.
"Law enforcement officers and local authorities play a pivotal role in the implementation and continuous improvement of the development strategies that have been carved out by government to address the root causes of human trafficking," he said.
He said law enforcement officers and local authorities who needed to be equipped and empowered accordingly in order to combat the human trafficking effectively.
Mr Autlwetse said initiatives such as the anti-human trafficking workshop was a step in the right direction.
For his part, the US Embassy's International Broadcasting Bureau regional station manager, Mr Charles Shepard, who was representing Ambassador Earl Miller, said America believed the fight against trafficking in persons was an international priority.
The US was therefore proud to have the government of Botswana UNODC, SADC Secretariat as partners to advance the common mission to end modern slavery and human trafficking.
Ms Samantha Munodawafa representing UNODC said since 2014, UNODC had been working with the SADC Secretariat to develop and roll out a data collection tool to strengthen capacity in the region to account reliably on trafficking in persons issues.
She said Botswana joined in 2017 and had since uploaded all known cases in the country on trafficking in persons.
"We are glad to hold this Anti-Human Trafficking and Data Collection workshop and this unique opportunity to work with councillors and law enforcement, criminal justice actors will yield great results in the identification and combating of trafficking in persons," she said.
The workshop was facilitated by the US Embassy, UNODC and Ministry of Defence Justice and Security.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>