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The Law and the People

MAXWELL MOTHAPELARURI MOATHUDI

While we are grappling with illegal gunmen who gate-crush congresses, rapists, murderers, the corruption prone, tax evaders and so on and so forth, let us pause and look at some aspects of the Law as it pertains to our beloved country and its humble, see no evil, hear no evil, talk no evil, law abiding people.

Is it working for us? In other words, does it serve the purpose for which it is intended? Does it serve to regulate behaviour? Maybe, maybe not. It really depends on how or from where one looks at it. For me .. well … here and there, but on the whole I think our Law is not that effective nor efficient. Or maybe it is because of how it is crafted, or interpreted or implemented, or just how I feel about it; I have no clue. I am saying this because I think we are using the Law to solve problems.

Is it intended that way? I really do not know, but that will not prevent me from representing my lay-man’s views in terms of what I think are deficiencies of some of our laws. Oops! Did I just write “deficiencies”? Mmm…h! I do not think I qualify for that. I wanted to, maybe write, irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant, unpredictable and most times un-implementable.

Is this a problem, or I am just making a mountain out of a mole hill? Well, I think it is and probably the reason we are not solving the problems we intend to solve is because we have not, as yet, recognised their existence, or we have, and just choose to ignore them. I just cannot comprehend why we always seem to tighten the screws every time the citizenry seems to be getting out of the way.

Are stiffer laws and punishments a solution to the problems besieging our lovely country? Have we ever considered that maybe it is the circumstances that the citizens of this country find themselves in, and unintentionally and innocently break the law, to make ends meet? Have we? I doubt! What then, is the use of tightening the screws if the circumstances remain the same? An exercise in futility? I guess so. We seem to be intent on the “HOW” aspect, as opposed to the “WHY” aspect.

We look at some variables, that suit us of course, not the equation. During a workshop, in Botswana sometime in February, 2016 or there about, aimed at evaluating where Botswana currently is regarding the death penalty and if enough is being done to minimise fatal errors, Justice Lovemore Chikopa of the Malawi Supreme Court, had this to say; “Talking too much about punishment and not enough focus on reducing people’s chances to offend and/or re-offend does not serve any good”. This says it all, ladies and gentlemen, and he was talking to us; seems we did not understand though.

I think we need to comprehensively concentrate on “why” people break the law, as opposed to “how” we can punish them for breaking the law. It is that simple! Even before the birth of Jesus Christ, Plato (427 to 347 B.C), posited that “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around them”. It amazes me that, in the 21st century, we still are not able to match the thinking abilities of people like Plato.

Therein lies the problem; our thinking abilities. We need to recognise the existence of a problem (detect the problem (this we do)), determine the cause of the problem by informed diagnostic methods (this we do not do) before we can even think of effecting a solution to the problem (this we do, and like doing). This I think is yet another problem. We have a propensity to effect solutions, by way of tightening our laws, without thoroughly diagnosing the cause of the problem. We have this irritating and ineffective “replace the fuse – all size fits all” mentality.

Our people will continue to innocently break the law, due to circumstances beyond their control and we will continue to tighten the screws. Those with the wherewithal to rope in legal representation – and they are virtually non-existent in this lot – will claim extenuating circumstances, and probably evade the slammer. Where does this lead us; to overcrowded court-houses and prisons, family disintegration and all sorts of nasty repercussions associated with breaking the Law. The funds that have to be used to build roads, schools, hospitals, clinics and a whole list of valuable and essential infrastructure is used to satisfy our insatiable appetite for solving problems with legislation, and locking our people up.

Besides this insatiable appetite for putting our people behind bars, we lack the rationale to distinguish between laws that punish the citizens and those that regulate and protect the citizens. Mature democracies go all out to promulgate laws that effectively and efficiently protect and regulate their citizens. Why can we not? We cannot because we do not take our people seriously. Otherwise why promulgate laws such as “shoot to kill”.

Kill who? Our very own people who vote for us. Our very own people who are forced by circumstances to break the law, knowingly or otherwise, they still do not have a choice; they just need to survive. Survive as their ancestors survived by killing, not poaching, the animals they live with and amongst, and they do this discriminately because they appreciate that the animals need to procreate so that they maintain their (the people’s) survival.

Here is a truly strange one, that sure flies in the face of logic; we encourage people to drink lots of water and then prevent them, by law, from passing the excess off, fully knowing that we have not provided facilities for getting rid of the excess. How immature! Everyone knows it is bad, and wrong, to pass off excess water anywhere one wishes to, but, in the absence of the requisite infrastructure, what does one do when nature calls? And I mean really calls? You see, it is a conundrum, and it requires mature reasoning and respect for the sanctity of life.

If we continue passing law after law in pursuit of the “HOW” to punish those who break the law, we will certainly end up with a situation where the citizenry does not respect the law. We will certainly end up with a situation where even the law enforcement cadre do not know which or what law to use against the people.

This might effectively bring about law breaking and corruption amongst the enforcers, who represent the Government, and, Justice Louis D Brandeis, US Supreme Court Justice this to say about this kind of situation; “Our Government is the potent, the omnipotent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches people by example…if the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become law unto himself”.

If you have read an article carried in the Sunday Standard of March 3 – 9, 2019, titled “Police law-breaking almost cost two men their lives”, you will catch my drift. Yet again, we might end up with people or organisations creating their own laws, simply because there are so many laws which cause confusion among the people and the law enforcement officers themselves. Explain this; why is it that a certified copy of a National identity card (Omang) has to expire, and in three to six months for that matter, before the original card expires?

If this is a law, then, at best, it is stupid! Will this not encourage corruption? Come on, let us be serious! A poor old man hitch hikes all the way from Moletemane to Mmadinare to drop off land application forms and is told that his certified copy of “Omang” has expired! He has the original card in his pocket but it has not expired. The poor fellow is confused but is afraid to confront the not so friendly gate-keeper (sometimes application forms are handled by gate-keepers), so off he hungrily hitch hikes to Selebi-Phikwe Omang offices to be informed that his card has still got three or so more years before expiry. Confusion! Confusion! Confusion! I do not want to explain how this will lead to corruption; it’s all there for you to figure it out dear esteemed reader.

Very soon we might find ourselves not giving rides to our family members because someone might misinterpret the law as outlawing hitch-hiking. What is outlawed is getting paid for giving someone a ride, not giving the ride itself. Same as carrying “Omang”. There is no law prescribing the carrying of “Omang”. There is serious need to educate law enforcement officers, and the public at large, so that there is harmony amongst us.

We make laws and leave it to the people to figure them out. If one is unlucky not to know about the existence of some law, and they break the said law; you know what happens? “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”. If this is the law, then it is cowardly. Not everyone can read. So putting the responsibility to know and interpret the law on people who cannot read, let alone access where the law is published, is downright cruel, and, at best, rude.

While we are busy making laws that punish our people, we very conveniently ignore cries from the people to pass other laws which will protect the people and the people’s interests. Why? The answer is simple! We ignore these cries, from our VOTERS, so that we may keep the voters in the dark and enjoy the fruits alone. How else does one start to explain the reason behind not promulgating a law on “Declaration of Assets and Liabilities”?

Well, I will start to explain by stating “so that the people may not know what we brought with us (assets or liabilities) when we acquired power (and we mostly bring liabilities) and therefore cannot prove we enriched ourselves whilst in power”. And then again, this law, as it has been argued in some quarters, will not be of “significant assistance unless accompanied by legislation on the right to information (Freedom of Information Act) and an appropriate Media Practitioners’ Act”.

Simple! How long have Media practitioners been harping to have the Legal Practitioners’ Act (LPA) repealed, or at the least reviewed? Ten or so years? That is a long time, and we have decided to turn a deaf ear to their cries. This is misplaced reasoning on our part. Should the law not address issues of equality, fairness and justice? What then happens to the equality, fairness and justice, which the law has to concern itself with? We are imperilled by statements such as, “why fix it if it not broken”.

That is an American way of thinking and I struggle to figure out “why America? when we are still a developing country, without laws that genuinely protect the interests of the ordinary masses”. We are custodians of this information, on behalf of the people, why then do we deny them that which we hold on their behalf. Baffling, is it not?

You see, we are all a people, governed by a people and I want to believe, for us (the people). So I just do not understand why a people governed by a people for the people, should want to disagree on what the people feel is right for them. Because, whatever is right for the people, has to be right for the law maker, unless the law maker does not live the life of the ordinary people.

For you, esteemed reader, to catch my drift, you have to belong with the masses. You have to live with the ordinary people, and experience their hardships brought about by overly retrogressive legislation. I live amongst a people who do not understand the law, and yet are supposed to respect it and engage with it. I live amongst a people who do not know that it is an offence to kill another human being. To them, their law is the law of the jungle – “eat or be eaten”.

So, to subject these people to the rigors of the modern law and not educate them on it is an injustice. I want to believe the majority of the people who inhabit prisons know absolutely nothing about the law, or if they do, they think it is for those who passed the laws. “Melao yeo ke ya bone” is the usual rhetoric amongst these people. If you do not understand me, come with me to the cattle-post, spend the weekend with them, and you will understand.

“From where I stand, you are no longer the break of day. You are no longer the silver light that shines in the evening. I can hardly feel my heart even though you hold me in your arms, and I hope you stay far from where I stand. Look at me … tell me what you see. Do you understand what your laws have done to me? You no longer sweep my heart away. You no longer hold me close beside you and help me find my way. It is no longer clear if you are the only for me. At least if you could see that it is written in my eyes how much I love you, my beloved Botswana”.

Much as he was not focussing on what this article is about, Iqbal Ibrahim (Understanding Islam) mirrors my thoughts in the Weekend Post of 02 – 08, March, 2019, when he writes; “We go through our daily lives with tests and challenges – sometimes we get so overwhelmed by them that we ask “why me”? When these things happen, our patience is tested and some people go into depression, lose faith and hope and even go as far as getting into a state of limbo because we lose rationality.

When the future looks bleak, we must remember the saying; “every cloud has a silver lining”. The cloud is the deteriorating state of affairs in our country and the silver lining is HE MEK Masisi. Even as they lambast and harangue you, I have HOPE! Do not lose sight of where you want to take our country. I want to sing Dobbie Gray’s song the way he sang it, once again, not in the bastardised fashion as in the previous paragraph, and I have faith you will finally make that possible; AGAIN.

May God bless this, the Republic of Botswana. PULA!!!
Maxwell Mothapelaruri Moathudi writes from Selebi-Phikwe

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WeekendLife

YAMAS 2020 Go Virtual

14th September 2020
YAMAS 2020

After announcing the postponement in March, the 6th edition of Yarona FM Music Awards (YAMAS) have bounced back and will be held virtually via Now Channel on DSTV Channel 290 and on the Yarona FM Facebook page on September 26 at 20h00.

This is one of the first virtual music awards to be held in Botswana.The 2020 edition of the YAMAS was originally slated to be held at the University of Botswana (UB) Campus Indoor Sport Centre early this year, but plans for an indoor ceremony were thrown for a loop by the coronavirus pandemic.

“There will be no public attendance at this year’s event, it will be produced for broadcast on TV and digital platforms. The event will take place in an extended reality studio which will comprise of the hosts only. The show must go on and we still have to award artist for their splendid job” said Yarona FM Station Manager Kelly Ramputswa.

Furthermore, Ramputswa stated that nothing much has changed apart from the awards ceremony going virtual, the voting lines for nominees remain the same. The voting lines opened on Tuesday 8th September and will close on 23rd September at midnight.Yarona FM has partnered with the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) and First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) who contributed money to ensure that winners go home with cash prizes ranging from P10 000 and P15 000.

“We recognize the hardship that has befallen the creative industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Botswana’s creative sector remains resilient and Yarona FM, as a crucial player remains committed to contributing meaningfully to develop the sector.

The partnership to bring the YAMAS at this time, with cash winnings for musicians and other creatives involved in the show is demonstration that we are all in this together,” said the Yarona FM Station Manager.The effort of gifting artists with money is a big boost since most of them did not manage to source income from live performances due to COVID- 19 protocols that led to suspension of many events.

The 6th edition of the YAMAS will be hosted by Yarona FM presenters Loungo Andre Pitse and Kedi Molosiwa. There will be performances from artists such as ATI, Mophato Dance Theater, Girly and FME DJs.

 

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WeekendLife

Promoters demand re-opening of their sector

14th September 2020
Franco

The entertainment industry remains the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and some creatives cannot take the strain anymore.

Other sectors seem to be gradually re-opening and learning to live with the pandemic, the creative industry on the other hand is still closed with no hope for it opening any time soon. Government has seemingly turned a blind eye to the drowning industry.

Meanwhile other countries are coming up with strategic plans on how best their entertainment industries can be re-opened and how people can live with the pandemic without putting each other at risk. Promoters Association gathered to air out their concerns and lament on how much the government has side-lined them.

Government is still delaying to pay subsidies to the creatives. The Ministry of Youth currently claims to have paid a total sum of P19 404 180 to 340 youth businesses and 9090 creatives. The ministry further stated that they have 15 640 who were assessed and vetted and 12 391 were approved.

A further P 4 054 820 is yet to be paid during the ongoing payment process. However, the Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), are demanding that the ministry provides them proof of payment for those who were credited, instead of releasing statistics.

“We have contributed to the best of our ability even though other promoters were not paid. As for now that P7500 is not as important because people have life problems and commitments and they got tired of waiting for the money. We tried were we could as BEPA with MYSC,” said Gilbert Seagile, President of BEPA.

Some promoters however found themselves drowning during the pandemic with no life raft as life issues pile up without any source of income. “We had cases of depression. They came to our offices. We had cases were other promoters almost committed suicide due to lack of income,’’ said Seagile.

Promoters Association wishes to work on their own without relying on the government. They had however crafted a project dubbed ‘Project Tselapedi’, wherein they seek P20 million to fund annual events. The funds are to be disbursed pending on how much each project is worth. This in an effort to help the ministry and to relief problems.

“We believe the project can be financed because even today we do not know when the sector will be opened. We have solutions but we are never called when decisions are made. We are three months away from December without hosting any event. They keep postponing meetings every week. Our industry is dying and it is dying in their hands,” said Promoter Exotic.
“All sectors were met, the transport sector has been fully opened yet they are not adhering to Covid-19 protocols.

Which means we can also host events whilst adhering to covid-19 protocols. The creative industry contribute highly to the GDP. We are not happy and we are going to do everything. We are being colonized by the liquor Act. These two are different. This issue puts us at a disadvantage. The liquor Act has nothing to do with us,” said Seagile.

Former President of BEPA, Zenzel Hirschfield, has sternly lashed out at the government for side-lining promoters and denying them the one thing that buttered their bread.“We are tired of going to the offices without anything coming forth. We also have the expertise to sit down and advice. The reason why they are doing what they are doing is because they are feeling the heat like us. We are not going to remain silent.

We will not listen and sit down. We will continue to speak. And we need to speak to the relevant people which is our President. We are dying of hunger. We don’t trade with alcohol we trade with the arts,” she lamented.

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WeekendLife

Is Polygamy Ideal?

14th September 2020
Polygamy

POLYGAMIST: South African businessman Musa Mseleku and his four wives.

No one can be blamed for thinking that women have been failed in this country. The 2020 World Population Reviews has placed Botswana as the second out of 10 countries after neighbouring South Africa with the highest rape cases in the world.

According to World Population Review, Botswana has 92.9 percent incidents per 100,000 people. The statistics are spine chilling and would prompt any country to act fast and put measures in place to reduce the numbers and keep save the most vulnerable; women and children.

In view of this ignominy, policy-makers would respond by putting in necessary legislations to address the crisis. However, it turns out such a belief is only presumptions. Even female MPs have not proved indifferent to the pleas of those who are at the receiving end, a disappointing gesture on their part.

Recently, Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East, Yandani Boko tabled a motion in parliament on urgent basis in which he requested President Mokgweetsi Masisi to set-up a Commission of Inquiry on GBV and other sexual offenses.The motion was infamously opposed by Anna Mokgethi, the minister responsible for gender affairs, disputing its urgency.

Incidentally, not long ago, Mokgethi went on record and sought help from President Masisi, seeking protection from her husband, citing that she fears for her life.Despite refusing to support the motion when it was tabled later, Mokgethi has been taking part in campaigns against GBV on social media.

If that was not enough, this week another female MP took it to another level. Beauty Manake, a Specially Elected MP is of the firm belief that polygamy can be a solution to GBV. It begs the question; how does having many wives solve GBV? If anything it may very well lead to a spike in the number of cases.

These remarks have left many women very much disenchanted on the idea, arguing that they are misrepresented and disappointed that the remarks were made by another woman.WeekendLife has taken it to the relevant people to find whether polygamy is really what we need to curb Gender Based Violence.

“Such a law disadvantages women as they are seldom involved in the decision to invite another women into their marriage. It is of course, highly discriminatory and should not be entertained. It will not work especially given the many social ills that lead to Gender Based Violence. Many domestic disputes are centered around adultery.

Legalising polygamy would lead to a conflict in homes and of laws in which an aggrieved spouse can sue for adultery, but the law in question would allow men to court other women during marriage,” Precious Gondwe, President of Pan African Game Changers and the founding Partner of Precious & Partner Law Firm.

“How will the rights of the first wife be protected? People are already killing each other as they cannot handle sharing their spouse. Couples fight about the presence of a third party in their marriage. Therefore officialising something that is not right, won’t make it morally right. It will only continue to repress women further and breakdown the family.

Once the family is broken then the very essence of society will be broken.””Legalising such a social ill would not make it morally correct. What does that mean to us as Batswana with the high rate of HIV and other social ills? This does not cure any of the social ills related to GBV. It is retrogressive in nature would be a proponent of GBV.

Surely in 2020 that is unacceptable. You cannot solve this by bringing in another predicament. As a woman and a Batswana, I am deeply concerned as to why that issue should be raised. We are adding more injury to the wound. I vehemently disagree with what the minister raised. We can’t legalize a problem!”

Polygamy in an era faced with Covid-19 and the repercussions of it is tantamount to economic suicide. Women no longer submit to men as easily, they understand the importance of independence and building legacies and protecting their wellbeing and that of their children. They understand that their lives are not centred around a man.

Social Activist Gaontebale Omphemetse Mmolai strongly believes polygamy will only regress women.“I am against polygamy because looking at the things we normally complain about, be it finances, children’s welfare, family relations and all, I believe that if we legalise polygamy in Botswana it will be a way of advocating for an increase in women’s problems.

Men will be given more power to oppress and abuse women in all different ways,” she said.“So imagine if you are stuck in that kind of a relationship or a marriage. Then both of you are being abused and the situation is worsened. So legalizing polygamy is a way of making an excuse for men. It will never be an alternative to solve GBV issues in our country. I am against the idea.”

The church however believes that in as much as there was polygamy in the Bible, God was clear that a man shall leave his family to be joined to his wife and not wives. They are of the belief that, there is no room for polygamy in the body of Christ and hence people should be inspired by the truth of God regarding marriage.

“The fact that there was polygamy in the bible does not mean that God approved of the practice. When we come under the new dispensation, we are under the New Testament. In 1Timothy 3 v 2 & 12, Titus 1 v 16, which explains that good leadership comes with a man having only one wife. In this portion of scripture, it was referred to church leaders and pastors,” Boago Ramogapi, Royal Assembly Ministries Pastor highlighted to WeekendLife.

“The reason why it was so, it was because they were the example of the Godly life. So that what we see in them becomes an example of what we are supposed to have in our personal lives. A man with one wife meant the congregation of the society must also follow an example of being joined to one wife. We are of the belief that one man one wife.”

As GBV persists, he has admitted that it has even entered church doors and that they are affected as much. Many people within church indoors are victims of rape and violence. “When it comes to GBV and polygamy being used to curb GBV I don’t think it will work. We just need behavioural change. The stance is that we need to permeate all the spheres so that men can rise to the occasion. And much more importantly I wish to see more men standing against it,” he said.

“We need to rise up to the occasion because GBV have also permeated church walls, because church members are sometimes abused sexually in the church. We need to reach out to men, we have done well with the girl child. It is now time to empower the boy child.”

 

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