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Opposition MPs slam parley proceedings

Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe

Members of Parliament from the opposition block have expressed their displeasure with unfairness of parliamentary proceedings and standing orders.

This is in the wake of a development that will see MPs debating only 25 motions from Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane in the next parliament session. Opposition MPs argue that parliament is seized with Moswaane’s business to the detriment of other MPs.

““I fail to understand as to why parliament can debate motions of only one MP and others not given a chance to table their motions” MP for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse told this publication in an interview.

Keorapetse accused Botswana Democratic Party (BDP )and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe of hatching a plan to deliberately sabotage opposition by silencing them. 

“BDP wants to make parliament boring and frustrating to opposition MPs, “he observed. “Only ruling party legislators are listened to by the speakership.”

Keorapetse also explained that their efforts as opposition to resolve the issue proved futile as the General Assembly meetings flopped because of the quorum. He said the intention was to amend the standing orders to allocate a quota of motions to MPs as it is with questions and find a way in which there can be equitable distribution of time for MPs’ business.

The youthful legislator slammed ministers for arrogance when responding to questions in a manner that detracts from the role of parliament as an oversight body.  

Keorapetse criticize the ministers for providing inadequate information, misleading parliament and lacking seriousness when responding to questions.  

Keorapetse also lambasted the speaker for colluding with the government through the Leader of the House to frustrate MPs’ efforts to table urgent motions or answer uncomfortable questions.

He added that the speaker was fast losing credibility as she was biased, incompetent and haphazard. Keorapetse indicated that the speaker was timid, fearful, and lacking assertiveness.

Another opposition legislator, Haskins Nkaigwa of Gaborone North said parliament was not another arm of government but a mere rubberstamping authority of the executive. Nkaigwa maintained that the executive was more powerful than parliament and the judiciary.

“Our parliament approves decisions of the cabinet which forms part of the executive yet it is always not well-informed as to what motivated those decisions. Since the beginning of the 11th parliament, supplementary estimates of hundreds of millions or even billions of pula  are rushed through parliament for approval in order to conceal failures of the government to budget properly” he pointed out.

According to Nkaigwa, members of the cabinet should not be drawn from parliament as that weakens parliament which is the only voice of the people.  

Phenyo Butale of Gaborone Central bemoaned the president’s failure to attend parliament for no apparent reasons. He said Botswana should emulate countries like South Africa and United Kingdom where there are laws forcing the president to attend parliament in order to answer MPs’ questions and at times take part in parliamentary debates. Butale observed that the president only attends parliament during the Budget Speech and State of the Nation Address. He said as the opposition, they would like to debate with the president directly on issues of national interest not with his deputy as it is the case. Butale also reiterated that since the president is elected by parliament he must account to it so that in turn legislators can account to the nation. He also lamented that the president can take some decisions without the consent of parliament.

Opposition chief whip and Francistown South legislator Winter Mmolotsi said if speculations that there are intentions to increase the number of government ministries are true, then parliament will be almost dead. He observed that the BDP backbench will be weakened as ministers will be selected from it meaning that the executive will even become more powerful. Mmolotsi also said parliamentary committees do not exist as there are seldom reports of these committees in parliament because they rarely meet. He said the committees were dysfunctional and ineffective because the ruling party backbenchers dominate these committees including chairing them and majority of them are clueless about the committees. Mmolotsi also took a swipe at the leader of the House, Mokgweetsi Masisi accusing him of being in control of parliament. He accused Masisi of intimidating the speaker and displaying lackadaisical attitude.

BDP chief whip, Liakat Kably could not respond to accusations levelled against his party as his mobile phone rang unanswered despite numerous efforts by this publication. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe said she could only respond to complaints lodged by legislators upon her return from Malaysia where she is attending speakers’ conference. 

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Transgender persons in Botswana live a miserable life

23rd November 2020
Transgender persons

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.

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Khato Civils fights back, dares detractors

23rd November 2020

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.

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UDC petitioners turn to Saleshando

23rd November 2020
Dumelang Saleshando

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.

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