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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.