A generation of children who were born with HIV has now grown up. Although life could not spare them the pain of stigmatisation, the turbulent period of adolescence and an altogether complicated life of having to live through medication; a bulk of them now lead normal lives.
For many born with HIV, stigma and discrimination have always been among the battles to conquer. Bakang Itumeleng Garebatho is among the many in Botswana born with HIV, at 23 years old now, he has disclosed his status and has dedicated a chunk of his time to combating HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination. Garebatho first learnt of his positive HIV status in 2002 when he was only 7 years old.
“At first I thought it was a curse or witchcraft. I'd isolate myself from the community including school because I thought it was written all over my face. Every time when I hear people talking about the virus, it would bring sorrow to my soul, bringing back memories of when i had to bury my own father at the age of 4 and my mother at the age of 7,” he said.
He, like many who have the HIV virus, underwent a harsh period of denial, and generally a trail of emotions, from hatred, self pity and depression. Though a hard pill to swallow, he would eventually come around and accepted himself. He knew by taking that step, he would be embracing himself and all the facets of his life, whether negative or positive, including his HIV status.
“Not only was I mad at my parents but at the whole family. No one was comfortable talking to me about my status which brought anger and depression in my life until I gained better knowledge of different situations and even put myself in their shoes. As of today though, I have made peace with my late parents and I long decided to start on a clean slate,” he said.
He has since founded an organisation, Sentebale Organisation. Through the organisation, he intends to reach out to HIV positive children who may fail to reach their goals because of fear as well as put an end to stigma. “We are living in an era were Stigma and Discrimination should be extinct. I decided to stand up and voice out to put an end to this. I want the coming generation to find a world full of cushions everywhere they fall. I chose this path because it has always been my dream to be a role model and advocate for those without voices. It was an opportunity for me to become what is inspiring to others,” he highlighted.
As a role model, he gets to interact with children, who like him, were born with HIV and had to disclose his status to them so they do not think less of themselves. “During camp, a group of children came to me praising me for the energy I had and my effort then ended up saying "Ha re kitla re tshwana le wena kagore rona re a lwala (We will never be like you because we are sick)" That's when I took it upon myself to disclose to them and tell them about my HIV status because they were clueless,” he said.
But Bonolo Selaledi, also 23 lived a parallel life. To her, all that mattered was waking up to find out that she had been cleansed and was free from the virus. She tried it all, including church. “In 2005 I defaulted after being prayed for by one prophet from the US who told me I was healed and I should throw medication away and even stop going for checkups. My mum obliged and she took me off my meds.
Five years later in 2010, I got sick and was admitted at Marina Hospital where tests were done and we were told the HIV virus was still in my body system. I suffered from migraine headaches. It was all too much for me, I was angry at God. I wondered why God did not want to free me, I was angry the prophet had lied to me and I lost hope,” she said.
She has struggled with issues of stigma too, just like Garebatho it has not been a breeze in the park for her. She has failed to find love as each time she has to go through the whole process of disclosing her status to partners who eventually leave. “Relationship life is not good. At the moment I am not involved because every time I disclose to a guy they leave,” she said. From her school days, she has been unfortunate as to find herself among a group not willing to overlook her status. Students would not want to associate with her because she was HIV positive.
“In 2014 I started my form4 and it was not easy as students isolated themselves from me after hearing i was admitted at S’brana and that I have HIV. Teachers started calling me names gore ke sematla ke gaisiwa ke bonnake and that I will never pass!” she recalled. Today, she lives a totally different story.
She has turned around her life and lives to help end HIV stigma and discrimination. “I am proud as I have helped a few to accept their status. The other problem is discrimination, some people end up committing suicide because they feel unwanted. That is what made me to come out to share my story as a way to end stigma and discrimination,” she said.
The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.
Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.
US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.
Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.
“The founders of our Republic de-centralised authority significantly in creating our constitutional system, which means that they gave an enormous amount of independent power and authority to State and local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.
Unlike parliamentary democracies, like Botswana the United States does not have all of the national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where the entire federal government is elected all in one election cycle giving a “mandate” to a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.
The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators serve for six years and one third of the Senate is elected every two years.
For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice
President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.
An important facet of US electoral system to understand given the federalism nature of the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.
“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State is assigned a number of electors to our Electoral College and the candidate who wins the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.
“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”
Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to win a State by one vote to win a 100 percent of its electors, the margin does not matter.
“Donald Trump won many more States by smaller margins, hence he got an Electoral College majority.”
Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.
“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going to break with the popular vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.
“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”
There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.
If however there are more candidates, and this happens extremely rarely, and a third candidate got some electors to the Electoral College denying the two major party candidates, either one getting a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.
“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.
BLUE STATES vs RED STATES
Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.
Many states have populations that are so heavily concentrated in the Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.
California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.
However there are swing states, where there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.
“So it ends up making a national contest for the presidency actually look like several state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.