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Frenzy of Soviet-style privatization in full swing

Botswana should anticipate the proliferation of new superrich oligarchs as a season of privatising state enterprises looks set to continue beyond Air Botswana.


In an all-round futuristic attitude, the Minister for Transport and Communications; Kitso Mokaila, told the press this Thursday that they might consider privatizing Botswana Railways as a way of shaking off loss making parastatals. Mokaila stated that his desire is to see independent parastatals that generate own income instead of gobbling state funds. He mentioned that in communicating to the Botswana Railways board of directors, he advised them to maintain an open minded line towards privatization of the train company.


“When I wrote to the board, I said to them that if it is possible we should privatize Botswana Railways so that we break new grounds and start transporting goods into West, Central and East Africa.” When probed further, Mokaila stated that he cannot say for certain at the moment whether they will privatize BR stating that they intend to conduct a research beforehand.


Mokaila further said that one of the aspects that will ease his ideal of continental trade is the construction of Kazungula Bridge which is both road and rail in kind. He said that his ministry intends to adopt a forward sighted approach “to see if a train will not pass through the wildlife area of Kasane as we export into Central Africa since there are wildlife issues of migration routes.”


He further revealed that when construction is complete, the Kazungula corridor will service 800 vehicles daily as compared to the 200 that are able to flow into and out of Zambia daily. Deputy Permanent Secretary for Transport in Mokaila’s ministry, Isaac Moepeng, also denied that the country’s South-North railway has reached its end life. The rail line has been washed away by rains numerous times in the recent past, derailing and running trains aground. Mokaila revealed that the recent damage to BR resultant of derailed trains cost government a staggering figure of P 8 million.


Moepeng, however revealed that, with Chinese assistance, in 1985 BR overhauled the then 40 kilogram per meter section of the railway to 50 kilogram per meter upraised on concrete sleepers. He further noted that this meant that government can now move more tonnages of goods on the tracks revealing that the railway still has 32 years of life left in it. Moepeng stated that, in fact, BR is underutilising the railway as they move 2 million tons of goods per annum on a railway that has the aptitude to haul up to 4 million tons.


Regarding Air Botswana, Mokaila conceded that the national carrier had been troubled citing among other reasons, the country’s population and unprofitable routes. He also revealed that his ministry has so far received 17 expressions of interest to take up 52% of the national carrier’s stake. He however declined to name the individuals and companies that stepped up only stating that due process is still underway. He further revealed that they have roped in the services of International Air Transport Association (IATA) to assess the 17 expression of interest for viability, “to look for the best model, avoid job losses and come up with a good airline.”


He also said that the dire situation at the carrier is evident as can be seen with the downscaling of aircrafts from formerly 8 to the current 4. Mokaila also acknowledged that the carrier’s pilots are leaving en masse for better prospects elsewhere, stating that: “I am happy when they leave because they get better opportunities.” Moepeng, for his part, revealed that out of the airliner’s 40 pilots, “10 have left and some are still going.”


Some of the state enterprises that were privatized and offloaded in recent memory include Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), Water Affairs as well as Bamangwato Concessions Limited (BCL). Air Botswana now joins Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) on the ranks of state companies awaiting privatization while BR could follow soon.


Quantum of Damages


Mokaila, under whose ministry falls the Department of Roads stated that his ministry will compile an assessment of the country’s damaged road network and then make presentations to cabinet. He further stated that the assessment will determine the quantum of the damages which will advise him when he requests funding from cabinet. “There has been road damage after the recent rains while other roads were in a bad state long before the recent rains. Some will need maintenance while some will need rebuilding.”


He further continued to state: “We haven’t measured the cost of damages caused by the rains. After we do that I will go to cabinet to present what I have and how much we need. I will then go to parliament and ask for money because these damages were not budgeted under the NDP 11.” Mokaila also stated that while the Department of Roads has the equipment such as road graders the department seems to be bogged down. He said that to untangle this conundrum, the roads department will look to private contractors to assist them.


“Re bobotlana rele lephata, we have graders but we are not fast,” stated Mokaila. Among some of the shambolic roads he counted include the Mogobane-Lobatse road which he personally inspected, Gaborone-Lobatse road, Francistown-Nata road as well as the Nata-Maun road.


Mokaila also promised to mount a spirited fight against network providers for inflating costs in his ‘national agenda’. “We want to see to it that prices go down. As a national agenda you should decide whether you want to protect big business or you will see to it that you want prices to go down.You shouldn’t be shy about it. You shouldn’t beat about the bush, if we do that we will lag behind. Don’t ask me how,” Mokaila said as he parried off questions from the press.

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Plight of GBV amid Covid-19

26th November 2020
16-days-of-activism

The United Nation’s UNiTE campaign has marked the beginning of 16 days of activism against Gender-based Violence which will end in December 10 2020, under the global theme, “Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign), managed by UN Women — is a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world.

The UN Women’s generation equality campaign emphasises the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.

Furthermore, the UN Secretary General’s report maintains that this year is like no other. Even before Covid-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions.

Globally, according to United Nations, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year.

Meanwhile, less than 40 percent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.

Evidently they suggest that as countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified- in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold.

“In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abused, forced marriage, and harassment,” said the UN.

According to the UN, in April 2020 as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 member states responded with their strong statement of commitment.

“In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to Covid-19. Yet, much more is needed,” said the report.

Moreover, they submit that as today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action.

“It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis,” contended the UN report.

For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit.

According to Dubravka Šimonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women, there is urgent need to end pandemic of femicide and violence against women.

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she emphasizes that as the world grapples with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on women, a pandemic of femicide and gender-based violence against women is taking the lives of women and girls everywhere.

Therefore, she is calling on all States and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women, and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or femicide watches/observatories on violence against women.

These bodies should be mandated to 1) collect comparable and disaggregated data on femicide or gender-related killings of women; 2) conduct an analysis of femicide cases to determine shortcomings, and recommend measures for the prevention of such cases, and 3) ensure that femicide victims are not forgotten by holding days of remembrance.

“Data this mandate has collected since 2015 through my Femicide Watch initiative corroborates the data available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and indicates that among the victims of all intentional killings involving intimate partners, more than 80% of victims are women.  Many of these femicides are preventable. Since 2015, a growing number of States have either established femicide watches or observatories, and in an increasing number of countries, it is the independent human rights institutions, civil society organizations, women’s groups and/or academic institutions that have established femicide watches or observatories,” she argued.

GBV in Botswana

UNFDP (United Nations Population Fund) Botswana cites that, locally over 67 percent of women have experienced abuse, which is over double the global average.

“Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence and normalization. Victims of violence, the majority of which are women and girls, can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death,” indicated UNFDP

In his 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered on Monday 9th November at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), President Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the snowballing of GBV incidences, saying, they have prioritized drafting of a Sexual Offenders Bill to be tabled during the sitting of the 12th Parliament.

“The Bill will establish a Sex Offenders’ Registry to record and publicise names and particulars of all persons convicted of sexual offences. To date twelve districts have set up the District Gender Committees in Chobe, Kweneng, Kgatleng, Kgalagadi, Maun, Serowe, Selibe-Phikwe, North East, Bobirwa Sub District, Mabutsane Sub District, Goodhope Sub District as well as Mahalapye Sub District. These committees will promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and also address gender based violence,” Masisi said.

The President highlighted that the Botswana Police Service, which has been dealing a lot with GBV cases has taken swift action and introduced a Toll-Free number for reports on gender based violence. He further indicated that the Police will establish a Gender and Child Protection Unit

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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
Khato-civil

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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