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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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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

6th December 2021
Justice Ian Kirby

The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.

WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

6th December 2021
Parliament

Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed.  This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.

In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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Bangwato at loggerheads over Moshupa trip

6th December 2021

Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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