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UDC endorses Councillor’s gay lobby

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) says that they support homosexuality and decriminalization of same sex activities as they are guaranteed in the party constitution.

WeekendPost has established that from a legal perspective the party has a clear position on the matter as espoused in its constitution while on the contrary the party would not explicitly pronounce it from the political angle.

This publication has gathered that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) law makers are also skating on thin ice on taking a standpoint on the issue of homosexuality as they dread for political expediency.

However, according to UDC’s Information and Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa, the UDC constitution guarantees Second Generation Rights and that “obviously touches on homosexuality and other issues of interest currently neglected”.

Mohwasa told WeekendPost in an interview on Thursday this week that “the issue of homosexuality and decriminalization of same sex activities is a human right issue – and as a party we do recognize all human rights issues. Therefore, in other words, if the issue of gays and lesbians is a human right issue then it’s guaranteed in the (our) constitution.”

Mohwasa however asserted that although the party has not taken a specific position on homosexuality, there is no need to make such pronunciation as the answer lies in the party’s supreme law – the constitution. “It’s a constitution that guides the party,” he stressed.

Mohwasa was speaking to this publication at the backdrop of UDC/GCC Councillor, Seargent Kgosietsile’s victory in his controversial bid to lure colleagues at Gaborone City Council (GCC) to pass the motion to “request government to consider decriminalization of same-sex sexual activities to support HIV/AIDS programmes and policies”.

The motion eventually passed after receiving opposition from only one BDP and Specially Elected Councillor, Macdonald Peloetletse who would not be seconded on his resistance to the motion.  

In essence the motion, by the maverick Councilor for Marulamantsi ward seeks to lobby the law making body of Botswana – the National Assembly – to decriminalize same sex sexual conduct by amending the country’s penal Code.

GCC does not have the powers to amend the laws of the republic but only the legislators have the prerogative to do so under the confines of its functions.

When supporting Kgosietsile’s motion during the debate, another UDC Councillor representing Block 9 ward, Sesupo Jacobs, highlighted that the motion to decriminalize same sex conduct is in line with the UDC manifesto and approach under pillar 4.

The said pillar states that“‘no one is left out’: a system in which all citizens are entitled to protection under the constitution and are brought to the social and economic mainstream of our society by accessing appropriate services that are beneficial and well managed.”

UDC Councilor invited former President Festus Mogae to motion debate

Former President Festus Mogae who is a well-known proponent of decriminalization of homosexuality was also invited but the invitation was withdrawn at a later stage after the motion could not proceed on the first date (last week), and consequently was not able to pitch up on the ensuing date.

Homosexuality activists including Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) and Botswana Network on Ethic law and HIVB/AIDS supporters were present during the debate.

Previously and subsequent to the motion postponement, human rights lawyers like Phazha Molebatsi of Ndadi Law Firm as well as law maker Kgosi Lotlaamoreng Montshioa II also graced the public gallery to show support for the motion on the day allocated for its debate.

BDP MP Tshireletso also backs UDC Councilor

Meanwhile it is understood that Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso who has not spared publicly declaring her support for legalizing abortion, prostitution and homosexuality has also told Councillor Kgosietsile of her support on the motion.

“She sent me a text message yesterday and assured me of her undying support on this motion,” UDC Councilor told the GCC chamber when debating the motion.

Tshireletso is also expected to table a similar motion in the coming weeks on the same topic of amending the Penal Code to decriminalize same sex sexual activities. As a member of the ruling party in the national assembly, which banks on its majority, she is expected to rally her colleagues – amid their reluctance to discuss such sensitive issues which have deep reservations on the society.  

GCC falls in the steps of alandmark CoA ruling

Recently the supreme and ultimate court – Court of Appeal has ruled that a homo sexual organization, LEGABIBO is at liberty to register and advocate for their rights in a legal manner.

In most cases it is homosexuals who indulge in same sex sexual activities that the Council is lobbying law makers to decriminalize.

It is public knowledge that in Botswana the Panel Code criminalises same sex sexual conduct under sections 164 as well as 167.

According to Penal Code Section 164 under unnatural offences; “Any person who (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits any other person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.

In section 167 it states that through indecent practices between persons; “any person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person, or procures another person to commit any act of gross indecency with him or her, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any person with himself or herself or with another person, whether in public or private, is guilty of an offence.”

In decriminalizing same-sex sexual relationships, Kgosietsile stressed that it will minimize and end stigma and discrimination associated with it.

“Who am I talking about when I say same sex people? I am talking about Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) individuals in Botswana. The people I speak of are Batswana, our brothers, sisters, children, parents, relatives, colleagues, leaders, subordinates, employers, employees; just to mention a few,” the UDC Councilor said.

He gave an example of Mozambique which he said legalized acts of homosexuality and therefore Botswana can follow suit. “Refer to recent changes in Mozambique where acts of homosexuality were decriminalized.”

‘Fire churches’ body still denounces homosexuals as “unholy”

Meanwhile, the umbrella of ‘fire churches’ in Botswana, Evangelist Fellowship Botswana (EFB) has described homosexuality as ‘unholy and immoral’.

“We as EFB believe that the infallibility of Scripture in these matters is non-negotiable. There is no right to do wrong. Batswana know what is right and wrong and have defined that in their Penal Code. Any change to Batswana's self-defined moral sanctions should not be left to a few individuals to decide, but should be put before the nation through a referendum,” Master Matlhaope, President of EFB cautioned recently in an exclusive interview with WeekendPost.

Matlhaope reiterated that homosexuality as a practice is criminal and “must remain so”, and added that it is of extreme importance to note that Batswana have not condoned homosexual behaviours or tendencies as is indicated in a recent Afrobarometer study. The research indicated that majority of Batswana abhors and shuns it, as per “the bible and Tswana customs”.

The umbrella body of ‘fire churches’ maverick leader maintained that Botswana should not allow herself to be pressurized by the current wave of transient trends which are perpetuated by international pressure groups. He added that these groups have organized to disadvantage and punish nations that are determined to preserve their own culture, identity and norms – and “this type of pressure is unethical and wrong and must not be tolerated”.

“Such practices despise the very foundations upon which this nation is built on,” he asserted. He highlighted that "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people" (Prov 14:34), and submission to Biblical norms holds hope to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

“We submit that civil laws should be based on what is morally right. There should be no civil right to do a moral wrong,” Matlhaope stressed.

What the law and international instruments says on homosexuality

Section 3 of the Botswana constitution posits that: “whereas every person in Botswana is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever his or her race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest to each and all of the following, namely- (a) life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law.”

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which Botswana ratified in July 1986, article 2 contends that: “every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.

Article 4 of the same Charter states that “human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.”

LEGABIBO extends gratitude to UDC Councillor for his bravery

According to a statement released on Thursday, the Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) thanked Hon. Sergeant Yellowman Kgosietsile, “for reaching out to the LGBTI community and contribute to elimination of stigma and discrimination, addressing exclusion of LGBTI, fighting homophobia and helping LEGABIBO to access structures which have always been difficult to access”.

The statement states that they also commend the Gaborone City Council for allowing Hon. Yellowman Kgosietsile to table such a motion and actually passing it. “We acknowledge that this is the first time in the history of LGBTI advocacy that Council conversed on LGBTI issues.”

“This action is important to the LGBTI community because it aims to enhance the health, wellbeing, inclusion and non-discrimination of the LGBTI in Botswana. In addition, the honorable GCC house calls for the inclusion of LGBTI in HIV/AIDS interventions and education of health care providers, echoing the position that LEGABIBO represents.”

Furthermore, the organisation said it is grateful for the forward thinking of politicians such as Kgosietsile and honourable members of the Gaborone City Council for their dedication to contributing to HIV response and protecting the marginalized groups.

“We acknowledge that the mandate of the honourable house is not to change laws, but we appreciate their efforts to lobby for change and make recommendations to law makers in their respective positions. Their contribution shall be cited in the history of LGBTI advocacy in Botswana.”

LEGABIBO also called upon all politicians to emulate this example by Kgosietsile and Gaborone City Council to lobby for legal reform and make recommendations for law makers.

Meanwhile BCP Councilor for Government ward Mohamed Sobhan will also table a related motion – but on same sex marriage – to pile pressure on Parliament to make necessary amendments to allow for such.

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Government ignores nurses’ COVID-19 anxieties

4th August 2021
Nurses

Health workers are at the front line fighting the deadly, contagious COVID-19. These workers have an immense challenge of welfare and government has since turned a blind eye to dares and crushing odds throttling health officers, particularly nurses.

Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has once more called on government to invest in the country’s nurses and give the nursing profession dignity.

In May 2020, BONU President, Obonolo Rahube said government should, in line with the advocacy of World Health Organisation (WHO) invest more on nurses and midwives, and further advised government to address challenges that nurses are faced with. The proposal was made on International Nurses Day.

At the time, Rahube urged government to provide subsidised accommodation for nurses and midwives as it has emerged that during the fight against the Corona-virus, accommodation for nurses and midwives is very important. Rahube called on government to provide nurses and midwives with 100% medical cover.

He also called on government to introduce risk allowance for nurses and midwives, noting that as frontline workers during the pandemic, they are at high risk. Nurses also demanded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), a matter which they lost with costs in court. Also critical during the COVID-19 era for health workers, psychological support is what BONU maintains is still lacking.

In the same year (2020), the Union raised a number of other challenges they are being faced with. These challenges, they asserted, make it testing for them to undertake their duties, especially now that COVID-19 has shaken Botswana’s already weak health system.

BONU expressed disappointment at nurses’ pay, nurses who tested positive for COVID-19 at an alarming rate, violence against nurses, nurses’ contracts which were never renewed and a poorly coordinated vaccination plan for health workers.

Clearly, nurses are not only battling the COVID-19 virus, but also government who has since refused to come to the party.

This week once again, BONU tested waters and slammed government with more demands, some of which have turned into an everyday song while COVID-19 continues to kill more nurses.

At a press conference on Tuesday, BONU President Rahube said over 800 nurses have been infected with COVID-19. Of this number, 34 nurses lost their lives due to COVID-19 related infections.

WHO and other health experts say for countries to emerge victorious from the COVID-19 pandemic, they must fast-track the roll out of vaccine. In Botswana, there is no clear explanations of how the vaccination plan is going.

The situation around vaccination is chaotic, and this is evidenced by only 28% of nurses who have been vaccinated. President Mokgweetsi Masisi is also disturbed by the COVAX programme as Botswana vaccines arrive in the country missing, every time.

Debates in Parliament on which vaccine to adopt are failing to conclude, in fact, they never gained energy. Rahube told members of the media that nurses are overworked.

“Shortage of nurses puts those available at risk. Some nurses are on isolation, quarantine and some passed on. Nurses do both testing and contact tracing so they end up working stretched hours, at times from 6am to 10pm. There is no how nurses will be able to deliver while exhausted,” he said.

He further indicated that infection control practitioners are not recognised and deployed appropriately, and some regions have shortage of commodities and supplies such as water resistant gowns (nurses are forced to re-use those availed), masks, gloves, scrubs and uniforms.

Oxygen supply is said to be in shortage, something that mounts COVID-19 deaths.

“Patients lose their lives whilst still awaiting to be put on oxygen. Psychological services are in serious need as nurses continue to lose their significant others, faced with resource constraints and many of them are not vaccinated,” said Rahube.

Accommodation still remains a huge challenge for nurses. BONU President said nurses overcrowd with families and colleagues.

In Kauxwi, four nurses share a single house, in Moshaweng two nurses share a single bedroomed house together with their families, with no electricity yet the village is powered. In Kazungula, there are only two staff houses for 11 nurses and their families.

The union stressed that the Chief Nursing Officer is not coming to the party, and the expectation is that the office should be coordinating all nursing issues at the Health Ministry. Rahube indicated that transfers have been frozen, promotions stalled and they continue to lose nursing posts to other Ministries.

In a number of recommendations, BONU urged government to consider compensation and risk allowance for staff affected by COVID-19 related deaths and those infected. “COVID-19 has been declared an occupational health illness, in essence, the employer should facilitate its occupational health division, and there are lots of occupational health nurses who are wrongly deployed, who could be running such programs at the facilities.”

In regard to vaccinations, BONU underlined that there should be clear information relating to vaccines and they should be made accessible. “Local franchise manufacturing of vaccine could use Botswana Vaccines Institute (BVI) and government should be clear and transparent concerning procurement of vaccines. It should also allow stakeholders with capacities of procuring vaccines to do so.”

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Gov’t reforms public procurement

4th August 2021
-Masisi-Serame

Government is moving swiftly to completely overhaul public procurement — a new Bill has been tabled before Parliament this week by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame and is scheduled for debate in the coming days of the current parliament sitting. 

Through this Bill the country’s purse bearer seeks to dismantle existing public procurement pieces of legislation, transform, merge and form a new public procurement arrangement. The existing public procurement high command base — the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPDB) would cease to exist.

This organisation will transition and assume the reigns of a regulator and oversight authority; the actual procurement; floating of tenders, accepting bids, adjudicating and awarding tenders will be fully taken over by Government departments accounting officers.

Accounting officers are Permanent Secretaries and statutory organisation heads and directors or any person who is responsible for the administration and day-to-day management of the affairs of a procuring entity, and any other person, who may be designated as such by the Minister under the act.

Speaking to this Bill this week, Serame revealed that the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal arrangement will be merged with the local authority’s procurement Act.

“We will now have procurement under one roof, all overseen by accounting officers, it’s all government money coming from one port,” she said.

Minister Serame explained that PPADB will no longer be player and referee at the same time, with a view to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the regulation and management of public procurement processes.

According to Minister Serame, the new public procurement Act will promote competition among suppliers and contractors, and also provide for the fair, equal and equitable treatment of all suppliers and contractors.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REGULATORY AUTHORITY 

Should parliament pass this bill the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will transition into a new body called Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The new Authority will be  mandated with setting standards and practices for the public procurement system, regulate and control the public procurement system, ensure the application of fair, equitable, competitive, transparent, accountable, efficient, non-discriminatory, honest, value for money and public confidence in procurement standards and practices.

Furthermore the Authority will monitor and enforce compliance with the new Act and any relevant law by a procuring entity.

For standardization and  ensuring of world class procurement best practices the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will  monitor, assess, review and report on the performance of the public procurement system to the Minister and advise on desirable changes, and further issue standardized bidding documents to all procuring entities

This oversight and procurement regulator will conduct periodic inspections of the records and proceedings of a procuring entity to ensure compliance with the Act.

The regulator will institute periodically, in respect of any procurement —a procurement audit during a tender process, a contract audit in the course of execution of an awarded tender, a performance audit after the completion of a contract, and an investigation at any stage of a procurement process.

The Authority will continue to keep and maintain an up-to-date register of contractors, known as the “Contractors’ Register”, in works, services and supplies, or any combination thereof, however classified.

The new Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will be governed by a board of nine (9) non-executive directors appointed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

The Public Procurement Board will be charged with directing the affairs of the Authority. Day to day executive activities of the Public Procurement Authority will be run by a Chief Executive Officer who will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board.

PROCURING ENTITIES AND ACCOUNTING OFFICERS 

The actual procurement will now be handled by the Accounting Officers who will lead their procuring entities. The entities will consist of the procurement oversight unit, a procurement unit, an ad hoc Evaluation Committee, the user Department; or any other appropriate structure put in place by the Government.

The Accounting Officer will be in charge of establishment of appropriate procurement structures to undertake the procurement functions under the new act, which shall be staffed at an appropriate level in line with the model structure issued by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The Accounting Officer will also be charged with establishment, as may be prescribed, of a committee within a procuring entity which will oversee procurement activities, establishment, as may be prescribed, of an oversight committee to monitor procurement activities in a procuring entity.

The primary role of the Accounting Officers will be adjudication and award of tenders, including the adjudication of a bid recommendation submitted to him/her through a procurement oversight unit.

The Accounting officer will have powers to cancel a tender process and reject a tender offer at any time prior to entering into a contract, in the manner as may be prescribed, and the Accounting Officer shall not compensate the bidder of a tender that has been cancelled.

Under this proposed Act new set of regulations and guidelines will direct procurement complaints and appeals.

COMPLAINTS & TENDER DISPUTES

A procuring entity  will, after the publication of an award decision — allow a cooling-off period of 10 days in order for the procuring entity to receive and address complaints, if any, from any contractor who is aggrieved by the award decision; and not enter into a contract relating to the award before the expiration of a cooling period.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a breach of any provision of this Act or claims to have suffered or is likely to suffer loss or damages due to a breach of a duty imposed on a procuring entity shall, at the first instance, lodge a complaint before an Accounting Officer for review.

A contractor who lodges a complaint shall have the right to participate in the review proceedings before an Accounting Officer. A contractor who fails to participate in the review proceedings shall be barred from subsequently lodging the same complaint.

Under this proposed Act an Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint after a contract has entered into force. After considering a complaint and determining that the complaint is a frivolous or vexatious complaint, Accounting Officer shall dismiss such complaint.

Notwithstanding subsection (1), an Accounting Officer may refer a complaint considered and determined to be frivolous or vexatious to the Tribunal for the Tribunal to take any appropriate action as may be prescribed.

An aggrieved person shall submit his or her complaint in writing to an Accounting Officer within 10 days from the date of the publication of an award decision by the Accounting Officer, relating to the complaint.

The Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint unless it is submitted to him/her within the period referred to under subsection.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a decision of an Accounting Officer may appeal to the Tribunal within 14 days from the date of the decision of the Accounting Officer.

Where a contract has been concluded by a procuring entity, based on an award decision of an Accounting Officer, the contract shall be irrevocable and its execution shall proceed without interruption whether the award decision by the Accounting Officer may in itself remain disputable by a contractor through the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Tribunal may suspend and subsequently revoke or terminate the execution of a contract if in the opinion of the Tribunal, sufficient evidence has been adduced to demonstrate that the execution of the contract may cause substantial loss to the public revenue or prejudicially affect public interest.

A complainant who wishes to lodge a complaint shall exhaust the dispute resolution processes provided in this Act before the complainant refers the complaint to a court.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT TRIBUNAL 

The Tribunal will be a body established independently from Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, and shall constitute retired High Court judges or practicing attorneys who qualify to appoint high court judge.

The Tribunal shall adjudicate over any matter brought before it by a complainant for a breach of any of the provisions of this Act, or any appeal brought in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

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COVID-19 hits hard on BITC

4th August 2021
BITC

The COVID-19 pandemic which weakened world economies had left a devastating impact on Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) existence in 2020. According to the group’s 2019/2020 Annual Report, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was sluggish for the first two quarters at P126 million and P426.96 million respectively. They then took an upward trajectory in Q3 and 4 at P1396 million and P1456 million respectively.

The year closed with a reduced performance at 73% for Q4. According to the financial report, export earnings opened the year at 83% which is approximately P671 million, before dropping to 81% (P1299.55 million). However, Quarter 3 experienced a slight rise in performance to 82%, or P1978.42 million before a drop in performance to close Quarter 4 at P74.9%, which was P2403.91 million.

Even if that is the case, the Centre continued to promote local investors by facilitating for local entrepreneurs to produce and find markets for their products both locally and internationally. The trend for Domestic Investment/Expansions indicated a continual upward performance surge from Quarter 1 through Quarter 4.

In percentage points, performance results reflected opening of 93% performance followed by a dip in performance to 82% Quarter 2, and then an increase to 100% in Quarter 3 and closing performance of 84.2% in Quarter 4.

For this financial year under review, BITC posted solid financial results with a surplus of P872.968, representing a decline from the previous year’s surplus of P13.991.337. The Centre started on track from the beginning of the financial year with successful execution of activities planned for the year.

However, following the subsequent onset of COVID-19 in the last quarter for the financial year, a few of the activities were negatively affected resulting from restricted cross border transfers. The impact is expected to be severe in the following financial year, especially on the Centre’s financial statements, clearly reflecting the negative impact of COVID-19.

In the financial year ended March 2020, BITC received a total subvention of P96.504.860 which represents a 5% decrease from the previous year’s subvention of P101.830.560. the Grant subvention received for the past 5 years has not been constant due to the financial constraints that the government has experienced over the years which prompted for alignment of financial resources to cover the Centre’s strategic imperatives.

For the year under review BITC’s annual FDI capital inflows realised stood at P1.456 billion against an annual target of P2 billion, which is largely attributable to more than expected performance from the Financial Services sector. The total Domestic Investment for the period was P875.5 million against the set stretched target of P952 million. The total number of jobs registered by the organisation during the year under review was 3329, against an annual target of 3340.

BITC ACHIEVEMENTS

Notwithstanding that, BITC realised high level achievements for the year under review. Chief Executive Officer Keletsositse Olebile said facilitated to establish the Selibe-Phikwe citrus project, which has a job creation expectation of 1000 vacancies as well as the expansion of Kromberg and Shubert Company through the allocation of land for construction of 7000 square metres factory to manufacture wire harness for Mercedes Benz, with over 800 jobs expected this year.

Further, the Centre continued to deliver improved investor facilitation services to both local and foreign investors through the Botswana one Stop service centre (BOSSC). “BOSSC houses relevant government departments under one roof to provide prompt, efficient and transparent services to investors. The services offered by this Centre have grown from slightly above 130 applications for government authorisation in 2013 to 752 in the year under review,” said Olebile.

BITC continued to monitor Botswana’s performance in global competitiveness indicators such as the World Bank’s ease of Doing Business Index. “In an endeavour to improve the investor facilitation mechanism in the country, we have motivated for the drafting of a Business Facilitation Law, which will expedite the setting up and operations of businesses in Botswana.”

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION DRIVE

BITC continued to respond to government’s call to stimulate direct investment and growth of local companies by procuring goods and services from locally based manufactures and services providers. The message to promote locals to actively grow the national economy has been driven through campaigns such as ‘PushaBW’ which utilised an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. As at March 2020, local purchases constituted 84% (2019:85%) of the total procurement with foreign purchases at 16% (2019:15%).

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