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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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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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