Police assault and detain unemployment protesters, journalists
On Monday the police brutally assaulted and detained a group of youth who were peacefully protesting unemployment outside Parliament. The Speaker of Parliament, Gladys Kokorwe, deemed the gathering unlawful and in the melee, several members of the press were also arrested.
Protesters in a peaceful demonstration in front of Parliament were on Monday afternoon arrested, with some charged with common nuisance.
The four, Botswana National Front Youth League president, Khumoekae Richard, Tlamelo Tsurupe, Ali Kerekang and a certain Banda were beaten up and arrested by the Gaborone Central police as they were part of a group of youth who had convened to protest against youth unemployment.
Richard and Kerekang were charged with common nuisance while charges against the other two had not been formalized by print time.
In an interview with this publication, Kerekang’s father, Ditiro Kerekang expressed disappointment at his son’s treatment by the police. “He tells me that he and others were beaten by the police and that the police were harsh to them,” said.
Kerekang said the family met with Station Commander Keoagile Tau who told them that Ditiro will be detained even though he denied that he was beaten. Kerekang however said the bruises on his son tell a different story and that if need be, they will seek legal recourse.
Meanwhile, Ebotswana videographer Bogosi Raududu was also taken in for questioning by the police who confiscated his video camera. There were attempts to conceal his detention, but it surfaced that he was released after being detained for several hours. Raududu says the police told him they wanted to check if he had not filmed inside of the police station, something they said was illegal. “I had to wait for more than 2 Hours as they said they had to wait for camera experts to check if I did not have such footage,” he said after he was released.
Journalists had earlier descended at Central Police, demanding to know what had been done with Raududu. “Contact the police Public Relations Unit tomorrow during working hours and field your questions,” said officer Andrew Montshiwa said. “Besides, there is no one detained here so just disperse,” he said, immediately threatening to unleash 20 police officers with sjamboks on them.
Scribes however stood their ground persisting with questions on Raududu’s whereabouts. This lead to Phillimon Mmeso of The Patriot, Reginald Richardson and Keikantse Shumba of Gabz FM radio station being taken in after being labeled “ring leaders” and being accused of inciting violence.
“Initially, they said they were going to detain us but we told them that our intention was not to incite violence and destruct the police as they alleged, but that all we wanted was to know why one of our own was arrested,” said Mmeso.
Meanwhile, Gaborone Central MP Dr Phenyo Butale who was also at the police station together with MPs General Pius Mokgware and Dithapelo Keorapetse opposed the detentions and pleaded with police to free the protesters.
“This is a sad day for our democracy. I have never imaged that I would live to see the kind of police brutality I saw in parliament today. Young people convened to plead for employment as citizens of this country, instead they were brutalized and assaulted the way they were,” said Butale.
For his part, Botswana Media Workers and Allied Workers Union president Phillimon Mmeso said the harassment of journalists was worrying: “ The situation is deteriorating as not long ago we were gathered at this very place when another journalist Sonny Serite was also arrested. We should not let such barbarism and by the police stop us from doing our job. We will fight it,” he said.