TWO HIV positive Zimbabweans jailed in Botswana have lodged a legal challenge against the Gaborone government which introduced a policy to deny foreign inmates life-saving Anti-Retroviral Drugs.
The Botswana government says it has a tight budget that can only cater for its incarcerated nationals.
Dickson and Mbuso Piye have since engaged the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), both NGOs, to help fight their cause.
The fight has found more takers in other rights based organisations.
“We decided to challenge the Botswana government for denying the foreigners anti-retroviral drugs because that is a violation of human rights and the Botswana constitution,” SALAC deputy director Priti Patel told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview.
“The High court reserved judgment and we are expecting judgment sometime this year in our favour. Denying prisoners treatment is inhuman and will lead to their premature death.
“The government has no legitimate justification for putting prisoners’ lives at serious risk by denying them HIV treatment.”
Cindy Kelemi, the executive director of Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) said prisoners should be afforded treatment regardless of their nationalities.
She said giving all prisoners drugs would both save the lives of those living with the virus and reduce the spread of the disease inside prison walls.
The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum director, Daniel Shumba, also criticised the Botswana government for allegedly fast-tracking the death of foreign prisoners by not giving them ARVs.
“That is gross human rights violation of the highest order,” Shumba said, “The Botswana government is urged to revisit its practice and policy and change it.
“That is against the human norms and standards and placing those Zimbabweans on a death sentence. Their (Botswana) human rights track record is not good.”
Treatment Campaign Actions (TAC), a South African organisation fighting for the rights of people living with HIV/Aids, called for the entire civil society to join hands and challenge the government of Botswana’s actions.
“When people go to Botswana, they do not leave their health or their rights to health behind,” TAC’s Free State spokesperson Sello Mokhaliphi said.
“Wherever they are, they have their human rights and rights to health. Denying them those ARVs is an apartheid done by a black man to black man.
“That government needs litigation. Civil organisations need to unite and take their case to the African Human Rights Commission.”
Mokhaliphi said Africans should act very fast to save more lives since the Batswana’s actions are fast-tracking the death of foreign prisoners.
She added: “That is barbaric and unacceptable. The government is killing foreigners before their trial is finalised.
“They are unnecessarily causing the death of these prisoners starting by killing them psychologically. Some, when arrested, lose hope and give up life and die. What they are doing is equal to death sentence.