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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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BDP unfazed by threat of united opposition 

30th November 2021
BDP unfazed

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership has indicated that the party is not worried about the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by opposition parties to support each other in the upcoming bye-elections.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which comprise three opposition parties; Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP), recently agreed terms with other opposition entities; Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

The duo of AP — a splinter part of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) — and BPF — a splinter of the BDP— did not contest under the ambit of UDC in the 2019 general election. The two parties have a combined four seats in parliament and a combined popular vote of 74 000 from the 2019 general election.

The signing of the MoU on bye-election is seen as a giant step by the opposition to consolidate their efforts against the BDP in the 2024 general election.

Unveiling the 11 candidates that will represent the party in the bye-elections billed for 18 December 2021, BDP Chairman Slumber Tsogwane stated that the cooperation of opposition parties to gang against the ruling party is not a new development in Botswana and that BDP has always emerged top in the face of such collaboration.

Tsogwane indicated that, as per reports, opposition parties had challenges relating to the allocation of wards, which were only resolved after the intervention of the leader of UDC, Advocate Duma Boko.

“We are not frightened by opposition cooperation. It is not happening for the first time. We have tasted it before. They tried in 2019, and it did not work,” Tsogwane said buoyantly.  “We still want to face them as a united block in 2024 because BDP is a giant that can only be tried by a united opposition.”

Tsogwane’s sentiments were shared by party secretary-general Mpho Balopi, who also believe that opposition cooperation is a non-starter. He said, in 2019, BDP increased its popular vote, despite BCP having joined the ranks after not partaking in the 2014 general elections. “They believed that based on 2014 numbers, the BCP joining UDC will give them power, but that was not the case,” Balopi said.

BDP increased its popular vote from 46.4 percent in the 2014 general elections to 52.6 percent in the 2019 general election. The 2014 general election was BDP’sBDP’s worst in history, with the party garnering a popular vote below 50 percent for the first time since independence. BDP also increased its seat by one in the last general elections. Meanwhile, the opposition garnered 19 seats in 2019 compared to 20 in the 2014 general election.

“They [opposition parties] have been doing so since 2011 after the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy in 2010. It is not a question of what are we going to do as the BDP. It is about what we have done in the past,” said Balopi. Balopi, who first became party secretary-general in 2011, led the BDP to the 2014 and 2019 general elections.

Last weekend, BDP held primaries in seven wards to choose candidates to represent the party in the 18 December bye-election. Meanwhile, four wards agreed to settle for compromise candidates.

The wards are going for elections on 18 December are the following; Nkgange North Ward (Nkange), Tamasane Ward (Mmadinare), Khwee Ward (Boteti East), Tumasera-Seleka Ward (Sefhare-Ramokgonami), Ga-Molopo Ward (Goodhope-Mabule), Lorolwane Ward (Mmathethe-Molapowabojang), Moshupa East Ward, (Moshupa-Manyana), Boseja South Ward (Mochudi East), Metsimotlhabe Ward (Gabane-Mmankgodi), MotokweTsetseng Ward (Takatokwane), Lentsweletau West (Lentsweletau-Mmopane).

Following the conclusion of the MoU agreement, BNF has been allocated six wards to contest. The wards are Boseja South, Khwee, Lorolwane, Moshupa East, Motokwe and Ga-Molopo. The BNF will, however, hold primary elections in Khwee while other wards settle for compromise candidates.

BCP will contest in Tumasera-Seleka Ward, Nkange North Ward and Metsimotlhabe Ward. An agreement has been reached that Metsimotlhabe Ward, despite being allocated to BCP, will field an AP candidate to warm up opposition unity talks for the 2024 general election. AP has also been awarded Lentsweletau East Ward.

Meanwhile, the new kid in the bloc, BPF, has managed to get Tamasane Ward in Mmadinare. It was also given Lorolwane Ward on paper, but it has decided to field a BNF candidate at the ward.

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Inside Private Security companies firearms proposal to Gov’t

30th November 2021
Private Security Company

A proposal by the private security companies operating in the cash business for firearm licensing, sent to government for consideration, has called on government to speedily consider licensing private security companies operating in the cash business as a panacea to the prevailing cash heists.

The companies say they do not seen why they cannot be armed because all the countries surrounding Botswana within the SADC region have a provision for armed private security. This, they say, has been the case for many years with South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia, and Angola all having this security measure in place and in many cases, for the last three decades.

“In all of these countries, the law provides that private security companies are entitled to use firearms subject to conditions under the law. For instance, in Angola private security personnel may only use firearms provided they have undergone competency training and are also required by law to keep registry and tracking of the licenced firearms. In many of these countries, armed private security does not only include for cash operations (including cash in transit) but extends to both the alarm response and to man-guarding services (a case in point being Namibia and South Africa),” reads the proposal.

The proposal further says this situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the Botswana currency is generally stronger than all other currencies in the region making it an attraction to would-be criminals. “Additionally the fact that this currency can be exchanged in any of the countries bordering it with relative ease, makes it an even more attractive avenue,” reads the proposal.

The estimated size of the cash in transit business, according to the companies, is estimated at over BWP 120m annually with over 160 daily delivery and collections between clients, the Central bank and the security company’s cash centres and automated teller machines (ATM’s). 

There are currently five security companies providing the CIT services in Botswana. Despite operating in the same security threat environment, and in many instances transporting high value consignments as the Government transfers, private security companies say they do not have the same armed escorts accorded to government consignments like cash and diamonds, as they are not licenced to carry firearms by law. 

“With the advent of increased security threats (as evidenced by the number of attempted and successful heists), these businesses require the same level of security in the form of having licenced firearms in order to provide their own armed escorts to ensure that there is sufficient cover and provide a deterrent to would-be criminals. The current arrangement of using Police escorts for private security, while effective as the Police are armed and acts as a deterrent, is not sustainable both in terms of resourcing and cost,”

Explaining how government handles own cash transfers, the companies says the government enlists armed Police escorts when moving high value consignments, in particular when transferring cash from and to the Central Bank due to the high risk associated with this movement. 

“This acts as a deterrent to ensure that there are no attacks on these consignments. This has proven to be an effective deterrent as criminals, knowing that the Police are armed, do not attempt to attack these transfers and to date there has not been a case reported on these despite the number of years this service has been in place,” stressed the companies in the proposal.

The companies dismissed claims that the licensing may in some ways be misused saying the government through the Arms and ammunition board has always conducted raffle draws for both shotgun and rifles for members of the public in order to access firearms licences. This, they say, has been ongoing for many years but there have not been serious incidents of misuse. 

“This provides a view that where there are proper control mechanisms in the issuance of firearm licences, public safety can still be guaranteed,” they observed.

Recommendations by Private Security Companies

Private security companies with Cash businesses request to be allowed to have licenced firearms in order to establish and run their own escort services. This is the only service to access firearms to mitigate the current risk. This will be subject to, amongst other requirements.

Strict criteria to be formulated in relation to the training of the officers who will use the firearms including continuous retraining at specified intervals. Firearms register to be developed with tracking capability and auditable by the authorities at all times. Firearms are retired by the officers at the end of duty on a daily basis and issued the following working day.

There will be a requirement for psychological evaluation for officers to be issued with firearms including ongoing evaluations at various intervals. The cash businesses will need to demonstrate the number of firearm licences required in line with the size of their cash businesses; approval to be based on proportionality to the required escort service and satisfaction 

The need for firearm licencing is further demonstrated by the nature of the business in that private clients invest in security companies for safe custody and transfer of their cash assets hence the security companies require to be effectively prepared to match these requirements and expectations that comes with this.

The companies proposed two models to be adopted, the first being for the provision for arming tactical teams that will provide escorts for the cash businesses. These teams will be in-house and the company is the one being licenced. The second is the provision for arming CIT crews (driver and crew man) across the cash business 

The companies further warned that this has to be taken seriously because the Cash In Transit service is critical to the daily functioning of the money economy by ensuring that cash circulation is optimally maintained. 

Major clients such as banks and retailers, they said, depend on this service for successfully running their businesses. “For these clients, same day value in money transfers is crucial as customer demands are increasingly high to be able to withdraw and deposit money at ATM’s without disruption and in the case of retailers deposits made are required for working capital on a daily basis. Disruption in the provision of the service, as is the case where the security of the service is affected due to armed robberies, results in the disruption to the functioning of these sectors and the associated losses incurred,” they concluded.

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How Ministry Local Gov’t lost control of P3.3 billion for orphans 

30th November 2021
Molale

The Auditor General’s report for 2019/2020 shows how hundreds of orphans could not benefit from an account holding billions of Pula because officials at the Department of Social Protection under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development slept on the job. 

Also robbed of the opportunity to benefit from the programme were vulnerable children.

The report reveals that the Department had outsourced beneficiary payments to Botswana Post, Sandulela Telecom Botswana and Smartswitch Botswana (Pty Ltd). Each service provider was engaged to effect payments for specific elements of the beneficiary packages. The Department disbursed a total of P3.3 billion from 2016/2017 to 2019/2020.

“However, the Department had lost control of the key financial operations to the service providers, who had breached the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on numerous occasions,” the report says.

The report says that a Memorandum of Understanding between the department and service providers requires engaged companies to ‘consolidate, verify and return all unclaimed payments to Client, together with a list of beneficiaries who did not claim such payments’. Such information must be submitted after every three (3) months for reconciliation.

“However, the service providers on numerous occasions contravened the terms of the agreement, as they took a substantial amount of time beyond the stipulated period to return unclaimed monies. Instances were noted where Sandulela took unduly long, even up to 21 months to submit returns to the Government,” the report says,

The report states that Sandulela held an average of P6.2 million in unclaimed cash allowances during this period, thereby denying the Government the opportunity to invest the monies elsewhere and earn interest.

Regarding the MoA, the report says that Botswana Post and Sandulela Telecom were required to open separate bank accounts to be used ‘solely for the social benefits cash allowances in the Agreement and the interest accrued in that account shall be reimbursed to the Client’. The agreement also provided that the service provider may keep the monthly unclaimed cash component for a period not exceeding three months with interest accrued thereon.

In line with their obligations, says the report, the Department credited Botswana Post and Sandulela Telecom with P2.3 billion and P371 million, respectively, for social welfare grants payroll for 2016/2017 to 2019/2020. Some of the beneficiaries did not collect their cash allowances monthly, and these had accumulated to P66 million for Botswana Post and P9 million for Sandulela Telecommunication Botswana.

“Based on the above observations, the Government could have earned interest on the unclaimed cash allowances if they had been returned as prescribed. As such, the service providers did not fully abide by the terms of the agreement,” the report says.

The report found that the agency fees for each invoice were based on the number of beneficiaries paid in a period multiplied by the rate prevailing at a specific location. It was observed that the Client did not receive reconciliation reports showing paid and unpaid allowances in time to update the Social Benefit and Reconciliation System (SOBERS) application system.

“Therefore, the credibility of the amount as calculated in the invoice could not be reasonably assured. The P47 million and P142 million agency fees paid to Sandulela and Botswana Post respectively for a period of 4 years may not be reflective of the number of beneficiaries paid,” the report says.

Retarding the Beneficiary Management Process, the report shows that the beneficiary registration system had some deficiencies, which resulted in delays in updating the monthly payroll with newly approved beneficiaries. Some beneficiaries had to wait for up to 5 years before they could receive the cash allowance, consequently defeating the programme’s key objectives.

“A total of 2 270 social grant beneficiaries who passed on from as far back as 1997/1998 were removed from the payroll in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019, which meant that some of them had remained active in the payroll for more than 20 years after their death. The Department had deposited their share of cash allowances amounting to over P17 million with the service providers, and there was no evidence of interest paid to the Client on this amount,” the report says.

In addition, the report says, cash allowance for 50 beneficiaries was claimed even though they were deceased. The audit could not rule out the misappropriation of P185 545 in payments to non-existent beneficiaries.

In terms of the Child in Need of Care (CNC) and the Community Home Based Care (CHBC) programmes, the report says, children require a special diet prescribed by a paediatrician to be enrolled. For that reason, the food parcels should include the prescribed food items only. According to the report, this proved to be easy to manipulate since the Smartswitch card did not have any restrictions established specifically for CNC.

“The Department of Social Protection (DSP) is in partnership with 9 NGOs, whose main aim is to protect the orphans and vulnerable children. The implementation of the programme includes key activities assigned to the District Councils,” says the report.

Therefore, the report says that the exchange of crucial information reports between the two parties is vital for the Client to be up-to-date with the operations to execute their mandate. The oversight role was therefore considered ineffective due to the following:

The NGOs did not provide quarterly narrative reports, financial reports and annual audited financial statements to account for transactions on their operations, which was in breach of the MoA. The Botswana National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children for 2010-2016 requires DSP to establish an independent body to provide oversight comprising development partners; however, this had not been done.

The DSP did not establish the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee as required by the National Monitoring & Evaluation Framework, whose mandate was inter-alia to ensure that Local Authorities effectively account for funds disbursed to them and establish whether they had been utilized for the intended purposes.

As a result, the report says the “Department had lost control of and had abdicated their responsibility and accountability for funds approximating P806 million disbursed between 2016/2017 and 2019/2020 to the NGOs and Local Authorities.”

It says that while the objectives of different classes of social grants may have been met, it is nevertheless of paramount importance that all the prescribed criteria in all the authorities are complied with for sound management of the programme.

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