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.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”