Ex-Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North (formerly Gaborone West North), Robert Masitara has this week declared his parliamentary candidature as an independent contender for the area in the impending 2019 General Elections.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Post this week the politician cum Gaborone Socialite and philanthropist confirmed the move saying the country needs him and his expertise more at this juncture than never before. “I still feel that my skills are needed in parliament particularly the expertise and exposure on corruption,” he asserted while stressing “so the role that I want to play at parliament is mainly to fight corruption.”
According to Masitara, in his short stint while outside of parliament in the last term he became aware of some things that he was otherwise not aware of when he was in the system. “Being outside parliament briefly allowed me to gain some valuable expertise. I learnt that corruption is not only the element of stealing or visible corruption. There is a hidden and subdue corruption that you cannot understand. That corruption is beyond nepotism, extortion, embezzlement and misappropriation. And I want to fight that corruption in parliament,” he observed.
When did he take the decision to stand as an independent candidate?
The corruption busting former law maker stated that he took the decision to seek for a second term in parliament around two to three years back but kept it closer to his lips while being present in the area on the ground. It was about two to three years back, he pointed out to this publication.
He continued: “I have long taken the decision as soon as I got into the forensics and saw the way things are being done and I realised that none of our MP’s understand the dynamics of our corruption the way I do. And none of the people in the oversight duties of government understand corruption the way I do. So I thought my best decision is to go back to parliament to rescue them.
“I am the only person who can help Masisi” – Masitara
The maverick ex legislator said he thanks God for an extension of his life because his assignment to the people is not yet fulfilled and think it will be, under President Masisi. At this stage, he said, “I am the only person that can actually help President Masisi” while adding “I am putting my life at risk I know I am going to have opposition. He contended that his loss, will be a loss to the entire country. “Even if I lose, it will not be the loss to myself alone, but it is to the country. It’s very critical. So they must put me in parliament.
According to the one time ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator, the people of Gaborone Bonnington North are different from other voters and that they understand him more to vote him back. “This is the time they need my services at parliament. With the influx of foreigners leading to more corruption, they need me more at parliament. Even if it means joining government it can help – mine is to help to recover corruption money. I will also put systems to block more money from going outside,” he said.
Corruption top priority for Masitara at parliament
Masitara highlighted that corruption will be his priority at parliament because every problem in this country cannot be resolved until they solve the nucleus of problems which is corruption. He observed: “I can draw a matrix of the economic situation of this country; the high rate of unemployment, substandard infrastructure. Everything emanates from our inability to provide corruption. There are no medicines in the hospitals as the supply chain in the procurement system of medicines has been captured. Service delivery cannot be executed as people are busy in demand of a ‘cut.’’”
Why he thinks he did not win in last 2014 elections
In terms why he lost the previous general Elections, the non-conformist politicians justified that there were many dynamics at time. He said, there were issues of public sectors strike that was at hand, but that he managed to garner more than 5000 voters against opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s more than 7000 speaks volume.
“This means I cannot be taken lightly. Remember people were also being trafficked into the area to vote against me because of the strike. Right now dynamics and the landscape have absolutely changed. And so let the electorates decide what they want.”
Some BDP cadres conspired to throw Masitara under the bus politically
When narrating his ordeal, the celebrity politician said he submitted his application at the BDP to stand in the recent primary elections but was blocked. “I had channelled it through our branch committee and I don’t really know where my letter ended. So they blocked it. I was in Pretoria at the time when I put through my letter. But that’s water under the bridge,” he said. He also stated that he believes there was instruction from somewhere in the party high authority saying they should not allow me to stand.
“They know very well that they cannot stand me. The very reason why they did not allow me is because I was not even listened to while I was in parliament. It’s the very reason why I was launched three days before the 2014 October General Elections. I was launched after everybody else have been launched. This explains why,” he lashed out.
Masitara believes that when one is in the Finance department, such as he was in oversight parliamentary committees, there is no way he can/would have been friends with anybody when executing his duty which he says might have contributed to some of his colleagues non-support. He observed: “when I used to say I want people to account I mean it – right from the presidency down. If you become soft people take you for granted. These are public funds.”
Did Masitara fail as the Chairman of parliamentary oversight committee?
The ex-MP said parliament can do so much up to a certain level and that from there government must take over. “If I come as the Chairman of a parliamentary committee implying that there is corruption somewhere and advice for forensic audit to be carried out, and give government the report. My expectations is not to go to government and shove the report down their throat but that they should look at it and see if they can implement as they hold the government purse. So the system did nothing, and what else can I, as an MP do given the set up?” he asked rhetorically.
Senior officials are busy looting while Khama/Masisi fight
According to Masitara, former President Ian Khama and incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi are still fighting this senseless war, which he says he do not even know where the war emanates from although they can speculate, and that this is happening while people are busy looting on the sides.
“Minister, senior government officials are looting. They are looting money through the system. They are doing this because they is no monitoring, who is monitoring parastatals, government departments? Who provides financial oversight over all these institutions?” he further asked oratorically.
Botswana not fighting corruption but only noncompliance to BURS
The corruption fighting specialist went on to reveal that what Botswana is fighting now is not corruption but compliance; it is an issue of non-compliance to Botswana unified revenue Services (BURS) for tax purposes. “I even told the DISS about this. It is about someone owing tax and it accumulated with penalties and interest and now BURS want to confiscate his assets to forfeit, yes they can do but that’s not the duty of the DISS. Corruption and money laundering should make part of their duty.”
On Isaac Kgosi ongoing court case, Masitara said he feels embarrassed that the former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi is only charged for leaking pictures of DISS operatives on duty against the DISS Act while there are strong allegations of corruption involving millions spanning in billions hanging on his head, but no charges have been laid so far. On NPF issue he stressed that it is just a tip of the iceberg and involves small money.
He stated that: “there is a risk that if the State fail to have collected evidence that is permissible in a court of law, the accused persons have a high risk of being discharged on technicalities because of our weaknesses in terms of collecting crucial data. And when they win the case they can even come back and sue government.”
On the famous undelivered promise to build bridge to the electorates
The philanthropist politician also pointed out that the issue was blown out of proportion. “Those are petty issues. I was standing against Otsweletse Moupo back then. I urged the people of Block 5 to vote for me so that I build the bridge for them. It was a simple thing as at the time as I had connections back then to deliver,” he said. So, he added that they decided to vote for Moupo instead and so there was nothing he could do then and he gave him a chance to execute his duties and that it’s now water under the bridge.
The United Nation’s UNiTE campaign has marked the beginning of 16 days of activism against Gender-based Violence which will end in December 10 2020, under the global theme, “Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”
The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign), managed by UN Women — is a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world.
The UN Women’s generation equality campaign emphasises the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.
Furthermore, the UN Secretary General’s report maintains that this year is like no other. Even before Covid-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions.
Globally, according to United Nations, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year.
Meanwhile, less than 40 percent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.
Evidently they suggest that as countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified- in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold.
“In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abused, forced marriage, and harassment,” said the UN.
According to the UN, in April 2020 as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 member states responded with their strong statement of commitment.
“In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to Covid-19. Yet, much more is needed,” said the report.
Moreover, they submit that as today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action.
“It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis,” contended the UN report.
For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit.
According to Dubravka Šimonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women, there is urgent need to end pandemic of femicide and violence against women.
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she emphasizes that as the world grapples with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on women, a pandemic of femicide and gender-based violence against womenis taking the livesof women and girls everywhere.
Therefore, she is calling on all States and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women, and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or femicide watches/observatories on violence against women.
These bodies should be mandated to 1) collect comparable and disaggregated data on femicide or gender-related killings of women; 2) conduct an analysis of femicide cases to determine shortcomings, and recommend measures for the prevention of such cases, and 3) ensure that femicide victims are not forgotten by holding days of remembrance.
“Data this mandate has collected since 2015 through my Femicide Watch initiative corroborates the data available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and indicates that among the victims of all intentional killings involving intimate partners, more than 80% of victims are women. Many of these femicides are preventable. Since 2015, a growing number of States have either established femicide watches or observatories, and in an increasing number of countries, it is the independent human rights institutions, civil society organizations, women’s groups and/or academic institutions that have established femicide watches or observatories,” she argued.
GBV in Botswana
UNFDP (United Nations Population Fund) Botswana cites that, locally over 67 percent of women have experienced abuse, which is over double the global average.
“Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence and normalization. Victims of violence, the majority of which are women and girls, can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death,” indicated UNFDP
In his 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered on Monday 9th November at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), President Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the snowballing of GBV incidences, saying, they have prioritized drafting of a Sexual Offenders Bill to be tabled during the sitting of the 12th Parliament.
“The Bill will establish a Sex Offenders’ Registry to record and publicise names and particulars of all persons convicted of sexual offences. To date twelve districts have set up the District Gender Committees in Chobe, Kweneng, Kgatleng, Kgalagadi, Maun, Serowe, Selibe-Phikwe, North East, Bobirwa Sub District, Mabutsane Sub District, Goodhope Sub District as well as Mahalapye Sub District. These committees will promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and also address gender based violence,” Masisi said.
The President highlighted that the Botswana Police Service, which has been dealing a lot with GBV cases has taken swift action and introduced a Toll-Free number for reports on gender based violence. He further indicated that the Police will establish a Gender and Child Protection Unit
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.