Some members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi (House of chiefs) have called for the utmost holistic review of the Botswana constitution in its entirety to address the current challenges bedevilling the country, and not just trivial face-lift amendments.
The members’ call come at the backdrop of the controversial debate of the constitution (amendment) Bill, 2016 (no. 3 of 2016) which seeks to increase the number of Specially Elected members from 4 to 6. The object of the Bill is also to increase the number of Ministers and Assistant Ministers by 2 each.
When debating the contentious Bill, which was nonetheless passed by a slim vote of 16 to 14 following spirited and robust deliberations, some dikgosi including outspoken Specially Elected Chief, Thabo Maruje II Masunga submitted that the ancient constitution which is still in use as it is, needs a holistic overhaul.
When speaking to WeekendPost shortly after Ntlo ya dikgosi session at the Parliament buildings in Gaborone this week, Maruje asserted that the country should come to a conclusion to look at this constitution “as a whole”.
“The current constitution needs outmost overhaul, we should address this constitution,” he insisted.
Understandably Maruje’s view echoes that of many members of Ntlo ya dikgosi who do not have the courage and confidence to clearly spell it out.
He even suggested that specific areas “they” (some dikgosi) want reviewed include the issue of equity which still has certain challenges. In particular he made reference to the issue of tribes which are recognised by the constitution as major tribes while there is no mention of many other tribes living within the borders of the country.
“That on its own spells out something,” he said adding that “as a Kalanga if a foreigner asks me where I am in the constitution I will be so embarrassed to tell them that I feature in it only in vague language.”
“You know the constitution guards against what might happen, so am saying the issue of equity should be looked at,” he maintained.
In addition the Specially Elected Chief said Botswana has been in a middle income bracket for many years and therefore needs a new constitution that will address current issues affecting the country today.
“Does the constitution still address the issues currently affecting Batswana? Does it still address the issue of Botswana classification of a middle income economy which is not clear it will be for how long?” he asked rhetorically before explaining that, “my view is that Botswana is a mature democracy and there are many issues that are coming out; as much as we are a middle income country it hasn’t translated to betterment of the people,” he stated.
“The understanding is that to forge ahead as a nation we still need to revisit how we are founded pertaining to the supreme document- constitution,” he asserted as he stressed that the holistic review will renew the nations’ aspirations and reflect on what we have achieved as a nation since 1966.
“50 years into our democracy, we have done well and I think we have to appreciate ourselves as a nation. Every Motswana has played a key role in these years. But my view is that 50 years going forward there must be a look at superlative law because there are emerging challenges and they need a new set of dialogue and another set of laws,” he added.
He maintained however that parliament should diligently perform its role of making laws, and playing a watchdog and oversight role, and there should be a separation from the highly powerful executive.
His view is, the constitution must respond to the current challenges and should not be limited by an old constitution as is the case today.
“It is now becoming a limitation, it can’t respond to current situations. It’s a sign that something is not right.”
According to Maruje, something that takes precedence like a constitution cannot be changed willy-nilly but rather wholly.
“The constitution is the blueprint in which Batswana have decided to be governed, but if you change the constitution, it cascades to the governance structure as well. So if you are going to impose 2 more people (Specially elected legislators) we have to soberly ask ourselves if we indeed need this or not,” he further stated.
“I have a serious concern with it because the constitution remains a very important document in the sense that if there is anything that you touch in the constitution there must be a consensus.”
Botswana’s heritage is clearly defined by the constitution including the kgotla system where communities are consulted. Maruje argues that there was no consultation with regards to the review as only the government gazette, which he said only speaks to a certain audience was used. “The kgotla system, dipitso and other forums are there. They can only be strengthened to continue playing their role,” he asserted
“So we should not deny Batswana the power to access information, freedom of information, freedom of association and the freedom to be consulted as they ultimately give a citizen the power to arrive at a particular decision,” he further stressed his point. Constitution should be written in indigenous languages
According to Maruje, we have hidden much knowledge by not writing some crucial documents like the constitution in Setswana,” such documents could have been written in Setswana, Sesarwa, Sekalaka, Sehumbukushu, and any other language spoken in the country.”
“Now we are talking the developments goals which says we should not leave anyone behind, that means we must try to push anyone at the back foot or who are behind the power to self-determination because it influences the way he thinks, acts, and the mental and psychological state. So I think time has come and yes English is our official language, that we can’t change, but equally languages must be able to empower,” he noted.
He also mentioned that the constitution should be included in the education curriculum. “I believe Batswana must be taught the constitution and the ultimate goals so that they can make part of the debate on it and that every Motswana can execute what they think is the right thing or needs to be done as espoused for by the constitution.” Of Kgosi Kgafela and Bogosi Act….
Maruje’s view on Kgosi Kgafela’s issue is that Bogosi be the given role to be part of a society of Botswana and not have political interference nor give power to a minister to de-recognise a Kgosi.
“I still don’t understand how because bogosi plays an oversight role on the overall running affairs of the government. I believe kgosi ke kgosi ka morafhe so morafe must be the one deciding on the fate of the kgosi.”
“Giving the minister the power of authority over other key institutions going forward will be a problem,” he highlighted while maintaining that Bogosi Act also needs to be reviewed.
Is Maruje joining politics?
The vocal member of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, Kgosi Maruje II says he has no intention of joining politics. “this issue has come out so many times and is starting to worry me personally, and now I always have to dispute that am not a member of a certain political party!” he exclaimed.
“Let me put it on record” he further said, “I am not a member of any political party. I don’t have a membership of any political party and I will give you that assignment to go find out.”
He further stated that, “”I can only join politics if Jesus says something. I will wait for that phone call from heaven. If it comes, there will be no question about it because I believe that as a Kgosi God has given me enough grace as not everyone can be a Kgosi.”
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.
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.
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.