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Cablegate: Ambassador's Call On Minister of Labor

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHOR #1017/01 3230955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180955Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5388
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0371
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0198
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0093
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0173
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GABORONE 001017

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

ADDIS FOR USAU
LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS
STATE FOR AF/S, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL SOCI ZI BC
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S CALL ON MINISTER OF LABOR

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Ambassador Nolan paid a courtesy call on
Botswana's Minister of Labor and Home Affairs Peter
Letlhogonolo Siele on November 7. The Minister and
Ambassador discussed the current situation in Botswana's
prisons, a plan by President Khama to assist released
prisoners in starting businesses, and the impact of the
crisis in Zimbabwe on Botswana. END SUMMARY


2. (U) Ambassador Nolan paid a courtesy call on Botswana's
Minister of Labor and Home Affairs Peter Letlhogonolo Siele
on November 7 in the Minister's Office. Pol/Econ Officer
attended as notetaker. The Minister was accompanied by the
Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Home
Affairs Victor Rantshabeng, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of
the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs Lucky T. Moahi, and
his private secretary McDonald Lashani. The Minister
congratulated the United States on the election of President
Elect Obama, and discussed common "echoes" between President
Khama's November 3 State of the Nation Address and
President-elect Obama's November 5 acceptance speech.

----------
Prisons
----------
3. (SBU) Ambassador Nolan asked about a report in the
newspaper stating that 2800 prisoners will be released from
prison in Botswana. The Minister confirmed that this was
correct and that 1031 have been released to date in an
attempt to ease overcrowding. Deputy Permanent Secretary
Rantshabeng stated that there are currently "well above 6000"
prisoners in Botswana prisons that were designed to hold 4900
inmates. He stated that the current number of prisoners is
an estimate, as the final numbers for September have not yet
come into his office.

4. (SBU) The Minister and Ambassador also discussed an issue
Botswana is grappling with regarding prisoners and voting.
Botswana law provides that prisoners with sentences of less
than four months should be allowed to register to vote -
raising the question of where they should be allowed to vote.
The Minister explained that declaring a prison a polling
station is problematic. Polling stations in Botswana are open
to anyone who wants to vote there - raising the specter of
security problems if citizens are allowed to enter the
prisons to cast their votes. The Minister stated that the GOB
is continuing to work on this issue.

-------------------------------------
Vocational Training in Prisons
-------------------------------------
5. (SBU) The Minister discussed President Khama's plan to
expand vocational opportunities from only current prisoners
to include recently released prisoners. The Minister
explained that the plan would allow recently released
prisoners to use prison facilities and equipment for a short
time after their release while establishing their businesses.
President Khama wants the program to focus on items like
carpentry, vegetable production, tailoring and upholstery.
The Minister said that the idea is still in the planning
stages and the length of time that released prisoners would
be allowed to use the facilities has not yet determined, but
he guessed it would be around three months. A profit sharing
system between the prison and the released prisoner would be
implemented. According to the Minister, this would allow the
released prisoner to raise seed money for a new business and
would allow the prison to recoup some of the cost incurred by
the prisons for this program.

6. (SBU) One current problem is the lack of room in the
prisons for such activities. The Minister said the plan
calls for tents to be erected until prison facilities can be
expanded. The Minister thinks a program such as this could
help recidivism rates by giving released prisoners a trade
and the opportunity to start a business. By way of
background, the Minister explained that currently in Botswana
prisoners can pursue trade certificates by taking classes and
taking certification exams while incarcerated.


GABORONE 00001017 002 OF 002


-----------------------------------
Effect of Crisis in Zimbabwe
-----------------------------------
7. (SBU) The Ambassador and the Minister discussed the impact
on Botswana from the crisis in Zimbabwe. Ambassador Nolan
asked if the GOB had seen an increase in the number of forged
documents coming out of Zimbabwe as Zimbabwean government
employees are becoming increasingly desperate for income and
more likely to accept bribes. Deputy Permanent Secretary
Lucky Moahi stated that he took a recent trip to the border
with Zimbabwe. During that trip Botswana border officials
stated that they were seeing increases in fraudulent
documents, including passports.

8. (SBU) Deputy Permanent Secretary Rantshabeng added that
Botswana is spending a lot to deal with the growing influx of
Zimbabweans. The GOB has been forced to increase the number
of trucks taking migrants back to the border and is building
an additional repatriation center to house the Zimbabweans
prior to their repatriation. The GOB plans to build the new
repatriation center in Gaborone to add to the four that
already exist in Molepolole, Gaborone Village, Selibe Phikwe
and Francistown. The Minister added that the electric fence
between Botswana and Zimbabwe used to keep out animals with
foot and mouth disease, which he says is widespread in
animals in Zimbabwe, was still being crossed by many people
desperate to leave Zimbabwe.

NOLAN

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