Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare
The Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare has broken ranks with the rest of opposition politicians and spoken highly about the country’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
In a candid interview this week with FRANCINAH BAAITSE at his residence in Gaborone, Rakgare revealed that Masisi is a clean man who would give opposition a serious contest ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Rakgare further revealed that as BCP engages the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) over unity talks, the Presidents of the Coalition parties must contests for the leadership positions and be directly elected by the masses.
Rakgare wants BNF to come out clean and account for the saga surrounding the forensic report of Gomolemo Motswaledi, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader who died in a car crush a few months before the last general elections. Below is how the interview was captured.
The BCP is readying to join opposition unity ahead of 2019 general elections. Tell us about it. Are you prepared for it?
I have not been mandated by the youth league to share my views on this matter. I have my personal views. However there is always a thin line between views of leaders on personal capacity and that of the position they hold.
There has to be some form of criterion between the coalition parties. Most of the time coalitions do not work out because parties do not understand each other in terms of culture and structures. You talk of behaviour of the general membership of the BCP; how we relate among ourselves, how does the leadership operate; how are decisions taken! For instance BCP uses the “bottom up” policy whereby the leadership implements decisions made by the general membership. That has been a culture in our party. I would not want that to die. I would not want Dumelang to take decisions on behalf of the general BCP membership without prior consultation. I do not want him to act like the former BNF leader, Dr Kenneth Koma who would say, “I am BNF and BNF is me,”
So you do not support the coalition?
I want the cooperation and almost everybody in the BCP wants it, but there are certain outstanding issues that still need to be ironed out. You will recall that when we went for the BCP youth congress last year I was clear that the UDC must come out and tell us the truth.
Remember the Motswaledi report? We need accountability. We submitted a proposal on the Memorandum of Understanding in regards to by-elections to the UDC. We have written to the UDC and it has not responded. Like I was saying to you these issues stands unresolved. We need accountability because we are a government in waiting. Another issue is about what happened in 2011. When the cooperation talks collapsed, Gomolemo Motswaledi, may his soul rest in peace, then representing BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy) signed, Dumelang Saleshando representing BCP signed and Duma Boko representing BNF (Botswana National Front) also signed. They all agreed that the talks have collapsed and so it was not good when the BNF membership went around accusing Saleshando of betrayal and that he pulled out from the talks.
Saleshando is going back to the negotiation table with UDC over unity talks, what should we expect?
We are going into fresh negotiations and we are going to thoroughly debate the issue and the youth league has already started. Their thinking as well as mine is that in a progressive democracy there has to be a contest. There has to be primary elections in every constituency. The people should be allowed to select their favoured candidate.
So you are not in favour of constituency allocation as per the old umbrella model?
Personally I think constituency allocation is fine but I disagree where primary elections are prohibited. Remember general membership would not participate or have a direct say on the kind of cooperation model to be adopted, but they can take part in voting for their preferred representatives. People should be allowed to directly elect the President, a person who would lead the coalition government. The BDP is going to fight hard to retain power and we need somebody who is very strong to combat their efforts.
Among the four opposition leaders, Boko of BNF, Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana People’s Party (BPP), Ndaba Gaolathe of BMD and Saleshando of BCP who would you want to lead the combined opposition to the 2019 general elections?
Personally I do not care who takes the party to the general elections. I do not think any elections would be as interesting as those of 2019. Let us put aside party affiliation and understand that this is about regime change. There are capable people who should be allowed the chance to contest and lead the coalition to victory. This project belongs to Batswana. Let us not worry much about individuals but rather about the structure. The Presidency is a very powerful position. The President controls almost all arms of government including the Judiciary, Parliament and even has powers to hang people to death.
We need to have an agreement in place that whoever takes over the Presidency in 2019 would support constitution amendment because the Presidential powers have to be reduced. We need an independent Parliament, independent Judiciary and independent oversight bodies.
What do you think of the current Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi whom the Opposition would have to contend with ahead of the 2019 polls? Is he a potentially strong Presidential Candidate?
Masisi is a nice man. He is a bit cleaner in as far as corruption is involved. He has a very strong character. We need somebody who can match him. If we do not have somebody who is grounded like him, who relates well with the people, we will kiss government goodbye. Masisi connects well with the poor, the ordinary Motswana out there. That alone is a threat to the opposition; that is why we need a character that will match him.
Surely, the opposition is not going to be happy with this statement!
I do not care. This is the truth. This man would pose a serious threat to the opposition should the BDP elect him to lead it into the 2019 general elections. If we fail to oppose him with a strong opposition leader, then we will be in serious trouble.
Do you think Saleshando stands a chance in leading the cooperation?
BCP membership has shown great support for him. They demonstrated that he remains their trusted leader when they re-elected him the party President during the last congress even though he had not achieved all he had wanted to achieve during the 2014 general elections. Dumelang will always be my best ever MP (member of Parliament). As a young person in Parliament he represented me, spoke a lot on things that affect the youth. For tax to be exempted for first home owners, it was because of him. Some of the commodities we buy are excluded from VAT because Saleshando spoke for the people. He has done his best. The party membership believes in him, they trust his leadership skills. They see him as the next President of the country and he must accede to that. If he is to relegate himself to something else, then he would have wronged them. The people should be given a chance to vote him as the leader of the coalition. If many people believe that Boko should lead the coalition, then let the people decide and vote who they believe is the best.
Now about your political future, are you still interested in taking another chance in contesting for a Parliamentary seat in the next general elections?
I am not so sure because we are now talking coalition and possible constituency allocations. Mogoditshane could end up being allocated to another party other than mine. Besides I am very broke at the moment. Campaign is expensive. Politics do not have a thank you when you lose. You struggle on your own. I used family money for campaigns and when you lose nobody gives you back that money. When I was fired from my old job at Duma FM I cared less because I thought, when I win, I would have little money to feed my family and survive. But I lost and I have been sitting home for the past 2 years without a job. I have a wife, a son and extended family to support. Back home in Thamage they look up to me for financial support. I am the bread winner and now that I am in opposition politics it is close to impossible to get my proposals looked at by even the private sector. I have sent out business proposals, but none of them have been successful. I know I had good ideas, but I am being punished because I am an opposition politician.
Is it that bad?
Yes, truth has to be told. Some officers have told me that they cannot help me because “elders” are watching. I am struggling financially. I know some would say I am shaming my family, but my wife has been supporting me through all these difficult times. She even gives me fuel money so that I can attend party meetings.
You are the youth leader, why can’t the party finance official trips?
We are broke, BCP is broke and it always have been broke!
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.