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Zakhem pits Mokaila’s Ministry against PPADB, AG’s Chambers

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Kabelo Ebineng is battling hard to deflect authoritative advice from the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), and the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGs) in relation to a conflict between Zac Construction owner, Nicholas Zakhem and a consultant, Bothakga Burrow engaged for the design aspect of a road construction project.

Zac Construction has been awarded a contract to construct the Ncojane-Charleshill road for P437 million. It has emerged at the Parliamentary Committee on Works, Transport and Telecommunications hearings that the consultant who has been engaged on the design of the road had his specifications used by one of the companies that had bid and lost the road construction tender. But he later independently tendered for the design aspect and won hence he is now working with Zac Construction representing the government.

Quizzed by members of the committee, Ebineng admitted that there are differences between Nicholas Zakhem and the government consultant, Bothakga Burrow. It has emerged that whenever the consultant raises a query in relation to the road construction and its works, Zakhem does not take kindly to it because he has stated that the consultant is conflicted because he tendered for the same job and lost. Zakhem has brought this matter to the attention of the Ministry, especially the permanent secretary, and they seem to share his views.

But Ebineng told the Members of Parliament constituting the committee that they had sought opinion from the PPADB and the Attorney General’s Chambers on the matter. He indicated that both are of the view that there is no conflict of interest hence Zac Construction must continue to work with the consultant, Bothakga Burrow. The attitude of the permanent secretary though, from the interrogation by committee members is such that the Ministry does not agree with the legal advice and expertise advice from both the PPADB and the AG’s Chambers.   

It is likely that the Ministry could push for the appointment of a new consultant for the project, a move that could delay the project. But the Members of Parliament where curious as to why the Ministry was disregarding the opinion of two entities that are relevant to the matter. The PPADB is responsible for awarding contracts in their millions of Pula value; while the AG’s Chambers is the Government’s legal hub, it interprets the law and advises all government departments and or entities.

Meanwhile it emerged at this hearing that Zac Construction start working on the Ncojane-Charleshill project before signing a contract. It was indicated that the contract was only signed some 12 or 18 months after the project was off the ground. Members of the Parliamentary Committee expressed displeasure at this development and warned against it. They queried how Zac Construction was paid if there was no contract for a period of 18 months. They lambasted the permanent secretary for these kind of lapses and told him that he should bring a full report of the matter when he comes back for further reporting in a week’s time.

The Parliamentary committee is wary of the revelations made by permanent secretary Kabelo Ebineng and they want him to come back and share more on the projects taking place at his ministry. Their view is that Zac Construction should not dictate to Government as to who should be appointed as a consultant for a project. They want Zac Construction to work harmoniously with anyone who is representing the interest of government.

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Transgender persons in Botswana live a miserable life

23rd November 2020
Transgender persons

An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.

In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.

In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.

Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.

More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.

At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.

The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).

Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).

International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.

In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”

The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”

According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.

In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.

The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.

LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.

“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.

Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.

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Khato Civils fights back, dares detractors

23rd November 2020

CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”

Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.

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UDC petitioners turn to Saleshando

23rd November 2020
Dumelang Saleshando

About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.

For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.

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