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.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”