The LBGTI community which thronged the Gaborone High court on Thursday to hear a landmark case challenging the constitutionality of government’s criminalizing of same sex coitus was left confused as their case did not have a judge.
The case was filed before former Lobatse High Court Judge Justice Michael Leburu who was recently transferred to Gaborone High Court. According to information reaching this publication, Justice Leburu was supposed to leave to Gaborone with part-heard matters and it was decided that the same sex case was not one of them.
On Thursday the human rights advocacy group, Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) which has been admitted as amicus curiae (“a friend of the court”) came to the high court not knowing that their case was not transferred to Gaborone but remains in Lobatse as it is considered as a fresh matter yet to be sat down for argument. The Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gays, Transgender and Intersex community left the Gaborone High Court disappointed and confused by the happenings.
In an interview with WeekendPost on Thursday LEGABIBO lawyer Tshiamo Rantao said he only heard on Wednesday that Justice Leburu would not bring the case with him to Gaborone. To his knowledge, the case was transferred to Gaborone chambers. “For now I do not know who the judge is or will be. I also do not know when the case will be heard. The case has never been sat down for judgment… but I honestly believe this is not a fresh matter before Justice Leburu as it was part-heard by the same judge during the admission of LEGABIBO case which we won. The case was considered during the admission of LEGABIBO case, so it is not a fresh matter but was part-heard,” said Rantao.
Registrar of the Lobatse High Court is yet to decide the date of the case. In the case, which challenges the constitutionality of sections 164(a), 164(c) and 165 of the Botswana Penal Code, LEGABIBO is represented and supported by Tshiamo Rantao and the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC). LEGABIBO believes the criminalization of same-sex sexual acts perpetrate stigma, intolerance, homophobia and violence against the LGBT. On the other hand government is out to defend the constitutionality of the same-sex act law and court papers seen by this publication indicate that the state has come all out and engaged experts in matters of homosexuality.
In his writings about same sex relationships published on African Human Rights Law Journal in 2004, former University of Botswana Dr Emmanuel Kwabena Quansah believes the wind of change blowing through kindred liberal democracies for the decriminalization of homosexual practices will take some time to reach Botswana. He is of the view that the future recognition of same-sex relationships, one may conclude, lies mainly in the hands of those who wish to engage in this type of relationship.
“Despite the many obstacles faced by and prejudices shown against them by society, they must stand up and be counted in order to influence a shift in public opinion, leading to legislative and constitutional changes in the status quo. Their heterosexual compatriots are not likely to do it for them,” said Dr Quansah.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.