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Teenager takes Gov’t to court over nationality

Government of Botswana, through Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs has refused to issue a birth certificate of a minor child (names withheld) at the request of her father.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs controls and supervises issuing of birth certificates. The denial by the government to issue the minor the birth certificate has culminated in a landmark court case where the father, Tshepo Mpatane, will face off against government at the High court. The application was registered by esteemed human rights attorney and partner at Thabiso Tafila Attorneys, Phazha Molebatsi, on behalf of the minor child.

The long-winded case has the potential to change the law with regard to fathers so that they play a noteworthy role in their children’s lives and owning up, in the event of absent mothers, like it is in the matter. In the court papers, seen by WeekendPost, Molebatsi in essence sought an order to be granted directing the government to issue the birth certificate. The well-regarded Counsel, who previously served at Ndadi Law Firm as well as Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) specifically sought “that an order be granted directing the government to cause to immediately be issued a birth certificate for the minor child”.


Molebatsi who is voluntarily acting on behalf of the father of the minor on pro bono, said this is considered a violation of the minor’s right to nationality from birth – contrary to section 11 of the Children’s Act. Now a partner at Thabiso Tafila Attorneys, the progressive lawyer also stated that an order be granted directing that the government develop a procedure for single parents and in particular single fathers in a similar situation to be able to register the births of their children.

In denying to issue a birth certificate in respect of the minor at the request of her biological father, whom they even share a surname, the government is said to have discriminated against him on the basis of his sex as contrary to sections 3 and 15 of the Botswana constitution.
“This is on account of section 6(2) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act which makes provision for a single unwed father in a similar position. As a result of this provision I was unable to register the birth of my child, as government officials are unable to determine the procedure to be followed to assist with the registration,” the biological father of the child said in his affidavit.

Mpatane also mentioned that the birth certificate should register his child as a Motswana by virtue of his nationality as a Motswana. “The refusal by government to issue a birth certificate to my child not only deprives her of her rights as a citizen but also her rights as a Motswana child,” he highlighted in the court papers. As a background in the matter, Mpatane said sometime around January 1999, he entered into a romantic relationship with a certain Ms Nomsa Mahlanga, a national of Zimbabwe. At the time he says he was on a 2 months trip in Selibe Phikwe where he met and fell in love with Nomsa who was also residing in the town and only knew her as “Dineo” and therefore did not have any reason to believe that she was not a citizen of Botswana. It is understood that the father later moved to Kasane.

“Unbeknown to me, the minor who is my biological daughter had been conceived during the time of my relationship with Ms Nomsa Mahlanga before I relocated to Kasane. It was sometime in April 2001, when Ms Nomsa Mhlanga appeared at my home in Francistown and abandoned the minor child on my doorstep that I first learnt of and met my daughter,” he narrated in court papers. He explained that he has since raised the minor child as his daughter and conducted a paternity test as suggested by his lawyer Molebatsi, which he did and proved that it is his child.

“I have since that time been raising her as my daughter. I have had to give her the name she currently uses as her mother did not tell me her name, birth date, place of birth or any information necessary to facilitate her birth registration.” The father of the minor said in the court papers that he attempted without success since 2001 to register the birth of his daughter. One of the barriers to the successful registration of his daughter’s birth he said was the request by government authorities for the birth details such as place of birth and date of birth.

“However, not having being present at the time; and not being in possession of that information and not having any means of contacting my child’s mother meant that I was unable to provide the requested information. I have approached several government agents including nurses, social workers, teachers and the police. Despite explaining my inability to provide these details, I have not been assisted to register the birth of my daughter and she remained without any documents.” He believes that if he was a single mother in the same position, there would have been more assistance and understanding forthcoming from government officials.

The minor’s father also stated that she has also been deprived full rights that are enjoyed by other citizens and registered children. He added that the child has had to use an affidavit to access free education as well as for her access to health services, even though she would at times be denied vaccines that any child would get free from government. He said the child could not cross the border with him as well. According to Mpatane, just recently he had to seek his attorney Molebatsi’s intervention to ensure the child registers for form 3 examinations as she was required to produce a birth certificate to register or she would not be registered for the exams.

He explained: “I have always assumed full responsibility to care and provide for my daughter from the day she was left with me, to the present day. This I do willingly because of the love I have as a parent for my daughter, thus my daughter has no protection of the law to ensure that she continues to enjoy my support. She has no legally recognized name and has been deprived nationality as a Motswana, and many other rights that other children enjoy.”

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

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.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

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.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

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.

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