Even before he could finish reading his letter of appointment,the new Commissioner of Botswana Police Service Keabetswe Makgophe has come under heavy scrutiny for ‘receiving’a donation from the British American Tobacco Company at a meeting with the business community recently.
The Anti Tobacco Network (ATN) has labelled this a conflict of interest because it is contrary to the Control of Smoking Act and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).The law prohibits tobacco advertising, promotion, sponsorship, among otherr things. Furthermore, ATN says this is also contrary to the calls made by the Minister of Health, Dr John Seakgosing, during World No Tobacco Day on May 31. The minister called on Batswana not to receive any donations from the tobacco industry.
In a press release by ATN founder; Bontle Mbongwe, the organisation shames the Botswana Police Service (BPS) for violating the very law it is supposed to enforce and protect the safety and health of the nation.
“The donation of a vehicle to the Botswana Police by a tobacco company sets a bad precedence in the enforcement and implementation of Botswana laws and is a drawback to the Ministry of Health’s efforts to protect public health,” she said.
ATN expressed concern over the Commissioner’s acceptance of the donation because of the oversight role BPS plays in the laws of Botswana, including tobacco control laws. Mbongwe said it is shocking that BPS is not aware of the provisions of the laws it is supposed to enforce. “ATN deems this action as “conflict of interest” because the police are the referee but are accepting gifts from the players,” she said.
She noted that by receiving a donation from the tobacco industry, BPS might not be in a position to genuinely enforce the tobacco legislation which it has already violated. Currently tobacco products are available to children and even sold by children in streets, contrary to the Control of Smoking Act. Moreover, donation of furniture and display cabinets as well as point of sale advertising in retail stores is rife, contrary to the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
BPS spokesperson Christopher Mbulawa has denied this. He said the meeting was not called by the police, nor did the Commissioner receive such a donation from British American Tobacco company.
“A cluster in Borakanelo; Retlaakgona, had called that meeting and asked the Commissioner to officiate,” Mbulawa said. He maintained that the cluster is independent from the police and there is no way the donation could be associated with BPS. Asked whether this cluster carries some patrol exercises with members of BPS, Mbulawa said he did not know. He added that individual members of the community ensure peace in their localities through clusters and the police do not have any influence on them.
“The Commissioner just attended that meeting and didn’t receive the donation,” he maintained. In a news item authored by one of the police officers on August 06, 2012 and circulated to the media, Makgophe was quoted imploring the business community to join the police in improving existing crime prevention strategies as well as formulating new ones.
Contrary to what Mbulawa said, the article states: “Meanwhile, the British American Tobacco Company donated a Toyota Hilux double cab to Borakanelo Police at the meeting.”Botswana is among more than 170 parties that ratified FCTC. It provides an internationally coordinated response to combating the tobacco epidemic and sets out specific steps for governments addressing tobacco use, including adoption of tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption, banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, as well as interference by the tobacco and tobacco product industry.
Source: Mmegi Online – BABOKI KAYAWE: STAFF WRITER