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Jun '10

Day 248: Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Posted by steve@buddyandme.co.za

Categories: Buddy and Me

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My updated itinerary for Namibia and Botswana, to the end of the tour.

The PROPOSAL TO THE PRESIDENT for your perusal.

To watch Buddy and Me in real time click here, select South Africa under “Global Fleet Logins:” in the left hand panel, enter cellphone number 0822549129 and password Buddy.

To make a donation to or information on any of the organisations involved in assisting victims of child rape and abuse, please click on one of the following links:

Bobbi Bear Foundation (KwaZulu-Natal)
The Teddy Bear Clinic (Gauteng)
The TygerBear Foundation (Western Cape)
GRIP (Mpumalanga)
StepThru (Gauteng)

This morning I woke to a miserable and cloudy, rainy day. Buddy had spent the night below my room window looking very forlorn and I was not particularly looking forward to the drive of 160 kilometres in the rain and cold to Selebi Phikwe, but the crusade must go on, so off we went.

<i>Buddy where he ‘slept’ under my window, my room being on the first floor above the trailer, curtain slightly open, this to wake me up when the sun came up, which didn’t occur this morning</i>

Buddy where he ‘slept’ under my window, my room being on the first floor above the trailer, curtain slightly open, this to wake me up when the sun came up, which didn’t occur this morning

Before heading out I had to replace the emergency made (80) sign on the rear of the trailer and to attach Buddy’s new licence disc which was due at midnight last night. So now ‘Buddy and Me’ are totally legal, although the red T is not the official one but I hunted high and low in Francis Town to get one but to no avail, so my emergency made one will just have to do.

<i>My emergency (80)</i> and

My emergency (80) and

<i>The official (80) sticker, personally I think mine stands out better, but then again I’m probably biased</i>

The official (80) sticker, personally I think mine stands out better, but then again I’m probably biased

I have often mentioned the fact that I am drawn into many discussions regarding topics which are not related to my crusade on child rape in anyway, and one such discussion took place last night with a couple of local gentlemen while discussing the atrocious condition of the, in particular, Nata – Kazangula road. This section of road, as I remarked on in my last blog, is extremely dangerous with long grass growing right on the edge of the road with not even so much as a metre of shoulder on the road and with animals, including elephant and other wild animals in the form of very large ‘buck’, stepping out of the long grass directly into the road in front of oncoming traffic.

This discussion inspired additional in-put on the fact that “our” governments implement and enforce laws such as the use of safety belts and the compulsory wearing of helmets for motor cyclists, which do not prevent accidents but only ensure the safety of the user after an accident has already occurred. There is no law against an individual attempting to commit suicide and so therefore it was unanimously agreed in the discussion panel, how can they, as in “our” governments, enforce an individual to wear a safety belt or helmet if it is only that individuals life at stake, surely it should be the individuals choice as to whether or not he or she desires to wear a safety belt or helmet?

Continuing on this subject, it was unanimously agreed that the terrible condition of our roads, as in the enormous pot holes and surface conditions through continuous patching, causes more accidents and deaths than accidents caused by the failure of the wearing of safety belts and helmets. In fact the failure of using these devises has never caused an accident, and so we decided that ‘our’ governments should be held to task and ‘fined’ as in pay compensation, like we as road users have to pay fines for not wearing safety belts and helmets, for causing accidents and deaths on our roads through the terrible state of our roads. The comment from the group was, “Steve, tell them to use it, or don’t use it”, just a thought.

But now back to today, fortunately within half an hour of leaving Francis Town, the rain stopped and it began to clear, and by the time I arrived in Selebi Phikwe it was reasonably clear but still cold. I had a great time with the Beares staff and once again that amazing man, the Regional Director of Beares Botswana, Yame, had arranged accommodation for me in a nice little B&B in town called ‘Traveller’s Rest House”. So thanks again to Yame and Le Roux, the store manager for Beares Selebi Phikwe, real gentlemen proving again that ‘Beares do really care’.

<i>The Beares staff at Selebi Phikwe<i>

The Beares staff at Selebi Phikwe

The afternoon was spent visiting the police, where I had a great chat with a really friendly Senior Superintendent Ga Pule who corrected the statement I made in yesterdays blog regarding the sentences handed down by the Botswana courts with regard to the HIV status of convicted rapists.

He confirmed that the sentences are in fact as follows:
HIV negative: Minimum 10 years, escalating to 45 years life and can include the death penalty depending on the age of the victim and the severity of the injuries sustained.
HIV positive: Minimum 15 years, escalating to 45 years life and can include the death penalty depending on the age of the victim and the severity of the injuries sustained.

No person convicted of rape, according to the Senior Superintendent, can be released earlier than the stipulated minimum number of years (10 &15) and as a rule do not get released earlier than two years prior to the sentence passed by the court having expired. In other words, if a HIV positive rapist is sentenced to 25 years, the norm is that he will stay in prison for at least 23 years but could be released in extenuating circumstances after having served 15 years, but according to the Senior Superintendent, this very seldom occurs. I like this system, a lot!

But this wasn’t the end of it. The good Senior Superintendent went on to explain that, the law clearly states that “No person charged for the crime of rape will get bail”, but unfortunately a High Court ruling a few years ago established a precedent by releasing a rapist under extenuating circumstances and so bail can now be obtained by special application to the High Court, but in the far majority of rape cases no bail is granted, damn I love this Botswana system!

But the good news does not end here. It is believed by the police that the failure of the majority of rapists to get bail has resulted in the country experiencing an unbelievable conviction rate of 60 +% and when compared to South Africa’s miserable 4%, this is mind boggling. So the message to our South African justice Department is: Please, Wake up and stop granting bail to rapists, in particular CHILD RAPISTS!

And now for the other incredible information. Up until a few years ago, Botswana was making use of South Africa’s forensic facilities for the testing of DNA in rape cases etc. Since making use of their own forensic facilities, this has reduced the time taken to get a rape case to trial from an average of three years to an amazing three months, and this according to the police is also a contributing factor related to their amazing conviction rate. Need I say anymore, read my ‘Presentation to the President’ on what needs to be done to stop the rape of children, available as a link on this website?

Following my visit and chat with the friendly Senior Superintendent, I then tried to locate any sort of facility which provides a support structure for child rape victims in Selebi Phikwe, and unfortunately this is where the country is sadly lacking. After having visited a few organisations, as in NGO’s only to be told that they only provide support for HIV/Aids victims I realised that there is, after all, one large factor missing in Botswana’s fight against the rape of children, they do not have a proper, if any, support structure.

Aids is by far the largest problem facing Botswana, and I was told that it is even worse than the unemployment rate. The figures given to me by government officials, is that unemployment currently stands at around 60% and HIV/Aids positive victims stands at a staggering 70%, this is devastating.

Another intriguing fact about Botswana, well one that I have particularly noticed but might it might change when I arrive in the countries capital Gaborone, is that when compared to all the other towns and cities I have visited in Africa, and in particular South Africa, there are no street kids to be seen in the towns and cities here in Botswana. I raised this point with the Senior Superintendent as well as a senior official I had a discussion with who is with the ‘Department of Woman Affairs’, and both claimed that this is because of the “High regard for social responsibility the Botswana people have”.
According to them, if a man or woman sees a child begging in the street, they will take him/her home, feed them, and try to establish why the child is in such a state. If it turns out that the child is an orphan, due to aids etc, they will take the necessary steps to either adopt the child or make the necessary arrangements to have the child taken in by a foster family. Whatever it is they are doing, it is definitely working because for the first time in a very long time of travelling around Africa, it is the first time I have not been accosted by a horde of street kids begging.

My discussions today with a number of people in various organisations confirmed that, child rape is definitely occurring here in Botswana and for the same reasons as those we are experiencing in South Africa it is not being reported. This therefore proves my point that in-spite of all the laws, and for that matter, the punishments being legislated by our government, we will never stop the rape of children unless the support is provided to the mothers and victims first, thereby encouraging them to report the rape of children, and only then can harsh punishments be handed down.

I believe that if our government is incapable of stopping the rape of the children then they must, instead of spending hundreds of millions of Rands on making the barbarian rapists life better and providing him with counselling and education while in the States ‘Correctional Services facility’, give the support to the victims in the form of a professionally managed support structure in compensation for the governments failure to be able to protect the child. Once again, read my proposal to the president (The link on this website) on how the Thuthuzela Care Centres at every provincial hospital in South Africa should be structured.

So that brings an end to yet another day in the life of ‘Buddy and Me’ here in Selebi Phikwe Botswana, so until tomorrow, we will say cheers for now, stay safe and keep all children safe.

Caring regards from
‘Buddy and Me’ (Steve Heath)
Comments and opinions to: steve@buddyandme.co.za

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