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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.