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.
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.