On Sunday, April 19, the human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign in South Africa, commonly known as BDS, made an announcement to the effect that over 20 South African businesses have terminated their contracts with the behemoth global security group, G4S, over its involvement in Israeli prisons and human rights abuses. “The SA businesses terminated their contracts, totaling more than R7 million per year, after being approached by representatives of the group,” read the statement. The group said the statement was released on the eve of the International Palestine Prisoners Day due to be commemorated on 17 April. The statement goes further to explain that, “In 2007, G4S was contracted to provide and maintain Israeli prisons, torture centres and detention facilities. In 2010 Palestinian prisoners and prisoner support organizations called for a boycott of G4S as part of the larger international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel campaign.” The statement further explains that, “Last year the Methodist Church together with Amnesty International and the European Union were among some of the organisations that terminated their contracts with G4S. In June 2014, Bill Gates withdrew his R1.9 billion stake from G4S after being called on by BDS South Africa and the larger BDS movement. In South Africa the Trauma Centre in Cape Town ended its relations with G4S in 2013. This was followed by South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, in November 2014, resolving that G4S (among other companies that do business in the Israeli occupied territories) be excluded from doing business with the South African Government.” Giving specifics on the terminated contracts, BDS has explained that, “The over R7 million worth of canceled G4S Security contracts include contracts for more than 140 sites across the country ranging from restaurants, factories, supermarkets and other stores.” According to the group, there are over 6000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel; 454 of them are being held under Israel’s “administrative detention,” which is similar to Apartheid South Africa’s “Detention Without Trial”, and 163 of them are children. In the last 11 years alone, more than 7500 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities (including being held in solitary confinement) with Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, being the youngest Palestinian child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers.
Gazette Business contacted the Botswana chapter of BDS to establish what their take on the whole matter is. Sergeant Yellowman Kgosietsile, a UDC councillor in Gaborone, is a member of the BDS Botswana Chapter. He says they, as the Botswana National Front (BNF), joined the movement through the South African Chapter and that they have been running a campaign to encourage consumers not to buy services offered by G4S Botswana and Woolworths; G4S for the reason already highlighted and Woolworths because some of its products are imported from Israel. “We have held three peaceful demonstrations in Gaborone to sensitize the public about this issue. I will be the first to aknowledge that it is not enough, so we want to visit the City of Francistown next and other areas outside of Gaborone,” said Kgosietsile, who added that last week they had a meeting with the UDC President, Duma Boko, and they asked him to lobby Government and the private sector not to do business with G4S. G4S Botswana Managing Director, Michael Kampani, was not in a position to respond to the matter as he felt it would be best handled by their South African counterparts. He however, received Gazette Business questionnaire and forwarded it to the regional office in South Africa. They had not responded by press time. Efforts to reach G4S South Africa Head Office were futile.