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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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan
Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme ofÂ â€śIthuseâ€ťÂ meaningÂ â€śhelp yourselfâ€ť
The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.
Letshegoâ€™s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. â€śIn keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascomâ€™s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,â€ť he said.
He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.
Mascomâ€™s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.
â€śThe speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,â€ť she concluded.
DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.
DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.
It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.
According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.
Responding toÂ WeekendPostÂ enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, â€śI am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,â€ť adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.
When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. â€śI know nothing about the warrant and I havenâ€™t been served with anything,â€ť he said.
Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.
â€śIt is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,â€ť said the former president in a statement.
He also stated that his brother TKâ€™s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. â€śTheir desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,â€ť he said
This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.
Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.
Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khamaâ€™s territory in Shoshong.
DCECâ€™s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo
Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.
Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.
It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCECâ€™s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; â€śpeople at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.â€ť
Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.
At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.
In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilaneâ€™s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.
When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any â€śinfightsâ€ť at the DCEC â€śat the top managementâ€ť, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. â€śThe DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,â€ť said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.
When WeekendPost inquired about Pilaneâ€™s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.
The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCECâ€™s corruption prevention strategy.
Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.
Although the infighting was denied by Pilaneâ€™s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.
Pilaneâ€™s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilaneâ€™s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.