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State rattled in same sex relations case

The Gaborone High Court, this week heard the much awaited case in which one Letsweletse Motshidiemang is challenging the courts to decriminalize same-sex relations between two consenting adults and imposes a maximum sentence not exceeding seven years imprisonment.

LEGABIBO has been admitted as friend of the court in the matter. The case is challenging the constitutionality of sections 164 and 167 of the Botswana Penal code and its social impact on the LGBT community and how it increases their chances of discrimination and how it
Lekgowe, representing the applicant argued that the matter they brought before the court was a matter of national interest and cannot be postponed because it has been going on for too long. This came about, when the Prosecutor, Advocate Sidney Pilane was nowhere to be found as he had attended another court case. The defendants could not take this and the panel of three judges were in agreement.

“Senior Counsel Pilane knew about this case, he should have organised his diary. We all have diaries here, we will not allow for this matter to be postponed. It has been before the courts since November. It will go on whether Senior is here or not,” Judge Tafa said. In the heads of arguments, Lekgowe argued that it is time same sex relations are decriminalized. “Homosexuality must be accepted, when the laws on same sex where drafted the society was not yet ready to accept same sex relations.

That is no longer the case, the society has softened up. We even have a song by Sereetsi and Natives and we dance to it and this is proof that society is now tolerant. We ask that the laws be changed as society has changed,” argued Lekgowe. Lekgowe contended that discrimination and assaults on the LGBT community exists because the law itself discriminates them by criminalizing same-sex relations. “How can Batswana be tolerant if the law itself is not tolerant?

It is degrading for parliament and government to criminalize this. We are not looking for the public to like homosexuals, we want them to tolerate it, and tolerance means you can disagree. That is even on one of our pillars in 2036, a compassionate and caring and tolerant nation,’’ he said. “Court of Appeal doesn’t dwell on interpreting the constitution all it does is pose the public perception that is not how you interpret the constitution. The public should not decide what section 164 and 167 means.”

Admitted as friends of the court LEGABIBO, represented by Tshiamo Rantao disputed that they have submitted enough evidence before court on the practical effect and social impact that sections 164 and 167 of the Botswana Penal code have on daily lives and experiences of the LGBT persons particularly. The submissions illustrated how criminalization of same sex sexual conduct limits LGBT person’s ability to access basic social services, increases their chances to discrimination, and infringes on their basic human dignity.

“The question is not what two consenting men were doing in their bedroom, what was the law doing in their bedroom? LGBT experience stigma and discrimination in their daily lives. Are sections 164 and 167 consistent to the constitution? No, they are not because they attract to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Evidence we placed is very clear, it is not in dispute that the applicant is a gay man. Should he then go to jail for his feelings? Why two homosexuals can’t be allowed to express themselves. How are they violating anyone’s rights?” submitted Rantao.

Arriving four hour late into the proceedings, Advocate Sidney Pilane argued that the case set before High Court was not about homosexuals, stating that it is also not about the penal code but about morals. Attendants in the court case could not help but murmur to this statement in disapproval causing the judge to call the court to order.

“This case is about us as a society and what values we hold, the LGBT have rights the same way we do. That is why some of them are here and not in prison, they grew up with yes as brothers and sisters. We just have to stick with our values and morals,” Advocate Pilane.
Advocate Pilane further argued in his debate that: “We have to endure discomfort as persons, I have people who have my head drawn in a P10 note. Is the law going to protect everybody? How far are we willing to go at protecting everybody, who do we not protect and why do we not? We are just looking to blame the law.”

Pilane gave an example of prisoners, “People in prison are not entitled to have sex, should they complain? Should a person who is not allowed to have sex in public, in prison and in boarding schools complain? The prisoners are not having sex in jail, are we saying they should complain too? Does that subject them to human degrading?”

“LEGABIBO should not burden the court but lobby parliament to change the law,” Pilane. “But do you accept that they have the right to approach the court?” asked Judge Tafa. “ Mr Pilane we are talking about human beings, our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, are you saying they shouldn’t have sex?” another question posed by Judge Dube. ‘Heterosexuals are spoilt for choice, homosexuals don’t have a choice, and the Attorney General has told us, what other choices do they have?” Judge Tafa to Pilane.

Facebook was set ablaze by the case, newsfeed thronged with comments and posts. One of the comments by human rights activists lawyer Uyapo Ndadi read. “The argument by the Botswana Government on homosexuality are embarrassing. I am afraid that the world may think that indeed we are regressing on our democracy and human rights standing.”

Another post read, “To some, it is okay to speak for women’s rights when you are not, for children’s rights when you are not, for HIV infected person’s rights when you are not, for survivors of domestic violence when you are not abused, but if you speak LGBT rights when you are not, it becomes questionable.” The judgement on the case will be delivered on the 11th June 2019.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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