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Botswana Opposition and Rights Groups Slam Proposed Security Law

Map of Botswana
Map of Botswana

Botswana legislators have started debating a controversial bill that would enable authorities to eavesdrop on phone calls.

The bill, "The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act" was introduced Wednesday by the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi. While analysts say the measure is a threat to democracy, Botswana's ruling party holds a majority of parliament seats, making passage of this bill a strong possibility.

Opposition legislator Never Tshabang, would give Botswana's Directorate of Intelligence Services too much power, which he says could be misused.

"When you have a rogue organization like the DIS, and you give them such responsibilities, they will go beyond a legitimate case of tapping phones," he says.

Tshabang added authorities including the DIS would be empowered to use assumed identities to obtain identity cards and travel documents, a notion opposition members and rights advocates are resisting.

Criminal law expert Kgosi Ngakaagae says he is not against undercover investigations, but voices strong concerns over phone tapping and authorities gaining assumed identities.

Fellow MP David Tshere has raised similar objections, and urges Botswana’s security minister to rework the proposed bill.

“This law will provide immunity for the investigating officers; we have raised our concerns. We had agreed that the responsible minister withdraw this bill and go back to refine it before bringing it back to the National Assembly.”