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Inside LEGABIBO and Pride of Africa Gaborone’s muddles

Gay pride or LGBT pride is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a social group. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT rights movements.

Pride has lent its name to LGBT-themed organizations, institutes, foundations, book titles, periodicals, a cable TV station and the pride library. Ranging from solemn to carnivalesque, pride events are typically held during LGBT pride month or some period that commemorates a turning point in a country’s LGBT history, for example Moscow Pride in May for the anniversary of Russia’s 1993 decriminalization of homosexuality.

Some pride events include LGBT pride parades and marches, rallies, commemorations, community days, dance parties and festivals. Common symbols of pride are the rainbow or pride flag, the lowercase Greek letter lambda, the pink triangle and the black triangle, these latter two reclaimed from use as badges of shame in Nazi concentration camps.

Botswana has never had a gay pride before, and this year, it seems like things are in order to debut one. Well, by the look of things, it is going to be a rough start, sad but true! Gay prides are buoyed by many organisations, and in particular those that work closely with LGBT persons. It won’t be the case for this inaugural pride, as LEGABIBO has decided not to be part of this implausible event. Wow! One may be conjecturing why this is so, as it is a bit eccentric. I mean, I was on tenterhooks to see the organization come on board to succour with whatever assistance that may be looked-for, but it is what it is, it won’t be happening, at least for at this instant.

Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana LEGABIBO is a Botswana human rights advocacy group with the primary objective of seeking legal and social rights for the LGBT community in Botswana. It is the first LGBT focused organization to be registered in Botswana after years of official opposition. The organization aims to reduce discrimination of LGBT individuals and advocate the recognition of same sex couples for the purpose of adoption, accessing social benefits and same-sex marriage.

Few years back, LEGABIBO posed a question at the High-Court, asking if indeed all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions race and religion are treated equally and without prejudice in this country. Few individuals applied for LEGABIBO to be legally recognized as a society by the Registrar of Societies and the application was rejected a few days later on the basis that the Botswana Constitution does not recognize homosexuals.

Another reason given was that the objectives of the organization are contrary to section 7(2) of the Societies Act. Following that miserable encounter, the organization launched an appeal with the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, who also rejected their application. I swear it was hot in the kitchen! From one rejection to another but LEGABIBO did not give up nonetheless. The organization then filed a case before the High Court seeking a review of the Ministry’s refusal to register it as a society.

They won the case on 14th November 2014. Just few months ago, Botswana’s High Court thrown out a colonial-era law that criminalized same-sex relations in a landmark ruling lauded by activists. People who broke the law had faced the threat of a seven-year prison sentence.
The case was brought by a young activists who said Botswana’s society had changed since sections of the country’s penal code were enacted, banning the ‘’carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature’’. The court agreed.

‘’A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness’’ Justice Michael Leburu said. Discussing the broad costs of discrimination, he added ‘’ societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity. The justices ruled that the law violated constitutional rights by denying dignity, liberty, privacy and equality to Botswana’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. As for what the ruling could mean for her community and for Botswana, LEGABIBO Coordinator Mmolai-Chalmers said that in addition to legal affirmation, the change will open new space ‘’for addressing public health issues more efficiently and effectively.’’

So this past week, Olivia Maswikiti who is a Chairperson of the Pride Committee that organises the pride of Africa Gaborone was on a local radio station, giving listeners an assurance that LEGABIBO is part of the event, slated for the last Saturday of this month, November 30th at the Three Dikgosi Monument at the CBD. It turned out that that was a blue…if not white lie! LEGABIBO is not part of this event, so they say!

When speaking on radio, she said that Pride of Africa Gaborone is about being inclusive and proud of whom they are as LGBT community. She argued that LGBTIQ persons need to be heard and seen, as they are here and they are proud. That is right, and I absolutely support this ambition. But, I wonder why she lied about LEGABIBO being on board, or perhaps there is something we not being told here. Well, I had to do something, I had to tête-à-tête to few associates I am acquainted with from LEGABIBO to find out which is which and before sharing that with you, there was a vast, elongated statement from LEGABIBO following that radio interview, responding to allegations that they are part of the pride, or maybe they were throwing shades, we will never know!

The statement reads…’’LEGABIBO would like to inform the public that is it not part of nor was it engaged during the inception and planning of the up-coming Pride of Africa Gaborone. It has been further elaborated that the planned pride is said to be done in collaboration with Pride of Africa and it’s slated for later this month. We strongly believe in the meaning and history of pride and what it represents.

Our believe is that pride is deeply rooted as a space that in inclusive and cognisant of the various political issues such as capitalism, class, equality, autonomy, race among others. We have noted that lack of appreciating the above mentioned issues causes divisions within the movement and has erased the history and ownership by those who birthed the concept of pride on the continent. In our view, there is need to be aware of the advocacy and organising of the LGBTIQ community within the Botswana context and how the same issues could affect the processes that has gotten our movement to where it is’’

So basically, this pride has been forced to take place without proper agreements on certain issues that are paramount to the essence of having pride and is unsubstantiated? Oh, I see why LEGABIBO decided to desert it. It further reads ‘’In the spirit of therisanyo and puisanyo, LEGABIBO membership and some members of the LGBTI community gathered for a puisanyo in June 2019 to discuss future of national pride. The consensus from the engagement was that pride should be scheduled well in advance to allow Batswana from across the country to plan for their participation since that will come with transport and accommodation costs. June was also chosen as the month to recognize as pride for two reasons:

The first pride, or Stonewall Riots of 1969 which started as protests against the police brutality targeted towards the LGBTI community in New York City is commemorated annually in June, the commemorations are about the freedom of the LGBTI community. Botswana’s decriminalization victory also came in June 2019. These heavily constituted the liberation of the LGBTI community in Botswana. For these reasons, LEGABIBO membership and the LGBTI community who formed part of the puisanyo had committed to engage further on future pride with attention to the decriminalization case. Therefore, LEGABIBO Secretariat as the implementing body for membership’s wishes cannot go against their wishes.

We have communicated the consensus from the puisanyo to the organisers of Pride of Africa Gaborone and we further stated that should they be open to suggestion, we could all join forces as Botswana LGBTI community bearing in mind that we need to afford all Batswana to attend including those from faraway place without any unplanned financial inconvenience.


Ok this is serious! I have been trying to get hold of Pride of Africa Gaborone organizers to get to understand what’s going on, or at least to respond to this statement. I mean, something has to be said if indeed the content of the letter is factual, if indeed LEGABIBO was never engaged or it’s just hoopla. It’s such a phenomenal feeling to see organizations with one mandate work together towards a common goal, so if they go detached, then I guess that’s off beam.

In an exclusive interview, LEGABIBO Communications and Documentations Officer Bradley Fortuin said ‘’LEGABIBO has never been approached in terms of working together with Pride of Africa Gaborone, however, we were offered an opportunity to have a stall at the event and looking at the time frame, and pre-planned engagement, there was no one to do so. Also, to be a part of it, LEGABIBO would have to go back to its members and get a consensus from the membership’’

He further indicated that ‘’LEGABIBO is not against individuals doing events, this is what we are looking towards; the ability for LGBTIQ to self-organize and we won’t be participating at the event because it was not in our plans and all our officers are out implementing hence no one to be at the pride event’’

So, LEGABIBO concluded their statement saying ‘’we however wish Pride of Africa Gaborone a safe and meaningful pride.’’ I wish both parties could put pride aside and meet to discuss how best they can go about this one. It’s clear that some stones were left unturned, yet at the same time pride is going to take place nonetheless. I think I have said lot of stuff, without any pride so I’m out of here.

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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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