Incongruities are playing themselves out in the rough and tumble of politics, as some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary backbenchers this week came out guns blazing, accusing the executive of negligence and denying them opportunities when they present themselves.
This comes at the backdrop of the two looming ministerial posts which are said to be out of bound for the backbenchers.
Weekend Post has it on good authority that instead the posts will be allocated to the new Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMP) that will be selected by President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama in due course.
The posts which were advertised through a Bill in the government gazette of 5 February 2016 will enable Khama to “review Ministries whose portfolios are too wide with the view to reducing the mandate,” and “cater for priority areas or emerging areas of responsibility.”
This publication has established that some backbenchers have already thrown themselves in the ring for the looming two Assistant Ministers posts in the likes of Setlhomo Lelatisitswe, Ignatious Mzwinila, Kefentse Mzwinila, Polson Majaga and Liakat Kablay.
Khama will only select the Assistants, which are at his mercy, from the party backbench. The president has the legitimate prerogative to choose who he wants in his cabinet and is duly advised by his ‘own criteria.’
“While there is a pool of backbenchers in which the president is spoilt for choice to pick from, it’s unfortunate that only two mere Assistant Ministers will be selected from the backbench,” backbencher and MP for Boteti East Lelatisitswe Setlhomo told Weekend Post this week.
He emphasized that “it’s ill-fated that the Specially Elected new law makers will be automatically appointed Ministers in the two ministries which are on the loop,” as he believes that they too have the requisite capabilities and expertise as much as those that will come on board.
The procedure for nominating SEMP at BDP is that the names are dropped at the party parliamentary caucus, and the majority will decide for recommendation while the president will take the final decision – although subject to endorsement by Parliament. The ruling BDP which has been in power since first elections in 1965 still banks on its majority in the National Assembly.
The Bill to increase SEMP, Ministries and Assistant ministers will also, as is the norm – pass through Parliament as well as Ntlo ya Dikgosi.
The backbenchers insist that they have been thrown to the wolves against initial decision making processes of the party and by extension government.
Recently the backbenchers were also at odds and differed with the executive over the talk-of-the-moment Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) which is aimed at stimulating the economy, accelerating job creation for citizens and promoting economic diversification.
The backbench has said that they have been neglected in the process of crafting the programme and subsequently doing informed dissemination. Their intention was to internalize the programme and own it, as well as accurately and properly share it with the public.
According to the BDP’s Lelatisitswe, above all the crux of the matter is that communication is not properly realized between the party backbench and the Executive “so there is that information gap between cabinet and ourselves”.
Setlhomo stated that: “as a new comer in this Parliament, I have realized that the executive takes most of the decisions separately from the backbenchers.”
He said their various constituents expect them to have all the information on the government’s state of affairs and sometimes they are not well versed as the Executive plays their cards very close to their chests.
Our constituents in general just think we are part of everything and we know everything when it’s actually the opposite in some cases, he pointed out.
“But we have brought such issues and complaints to caucus especially that: we should be briefed in advance for any big development in the party and government.”
According to the MP, it appears that, at least cabinet does appreciate their position.
BDP Chief Whip and MP for Letlhakeng West Liakat Kablay who also forms part of the backbench also pointed out that the party should bring in more politically active members through SEMP so that they can effectively defend the seemingly plummeting party, at least in terms of popular vote as well as losing political big fishes recently like former Speaker of Parliament Margaret Nasha.
“These SEMP posts should therefore bring shrewd and robust politicians and, not technocrats, who will defend the party from the buoyant opposition especially the young turks who would be able to hit back real hard at the likes of Mma Nasha who has vigorously attacked the party lately,” Kablay said.
“The proposed two ministers and assistant ministers should be allocated to the backbench,” another backbencher Polson Majaga told this publication blatantly.
“It’s like the executive is belittling the backbench if they bypass them in preference for new SEMP’s and by extension appointing them to ministerial positions while they will be still new to Parliament and most importantly without a constituency as we have worked hard to earn ours and sustained the party as it still remained in power.”
In the current Parliament, the BDP backbench consists of Gantsi South MP Christian Degraaf, Francistown East’s Buti Billy, Ignatious Moswaane of Francistown West, Tati West legislator Biggie Butale, law maker for Maun East Kostantinos Marcus, Mahalapye West’s Joseph Molefhe and Polson Majaga of Nata/Gweta.
It also includes Ngami MP Thato Kwerepe, Machana Shamukuni for Chobe, Setlhomo Lelatisitswe of Boteti East, Letlhakeng West’s Liakat Kablay, Guma Moyo of Tati East, Kefentse Mzwinila of Mmadinare, Itumeleng Moiphisi from Kgalagadi North, Letlhakeng/Takatokwane’s Ngaka Ngaka as well as Gaborone South’s Kagiso Molatlhegi.
“People shouldn’t be brought from outside, they should be selected from within – amongst the backbench to be precise,” Majaga stressed.
Majaga argued that the rules of elections are straight and forward and everybody can join the train to Parliament and it is when they are within that they should then stand a chance to be chosen to the decision making and lucrative executive.
He added that the party seems to be applying the notion of ‘all animals are equal but others are more equal that others’.
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.
About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.
For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.