The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) panellist at a roundtable organised by the University of Botswana’s Democracy Research Project, Lawrence Ookeditse was forced to be on the defensive and declared that “the current government is a victim of its own success” and it was being judged unfairly by some in the society.
Panellists were scrutinising the state of affairs of Botswana’s democracy and the level of development in the country. Ookeditse was the only soul veneering against the stance that the country is on a trance of rearward regression. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando did not show up and so was the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) representative.
The jumbled panel featuring print journalist, Spencer Mogapi; University of Botswana czar of Political Science, Professor Balesi Tsie; BDP activist, Ookeditse; as well as trade union federation, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) President, Johannes Tshukudu sketched a gloomy picture of the country’s stance and prospects on a myriad topics ranging from the state of affairs in public education, national fiscal deportment, democracy as well as government control over state media, among others.
Defending the status quo, Ookeditse pointed out that Botswana is on the right path as it continues to attract favourable rankings in the region and Africa on aspects of human development, the economy, human rights and democracy. He cautioned that people should be aware that the state media’s purpose is for nation building and held firm that it is doing its job well.
He said while Khama has not addressed the UB academia and the media broadly, he has chosen a more functional approach to engage the populace. However he conceded that a lot can still be done to make Botswana more prosperous.
“The BDP government is the only government in the world that has not downsized its workforce despite advice from the International Monetary Fund,” he said. Ookeditse is convinced that the BDP will still win the 2019 general election.
UB political science lecturer, Professor Tsie poked holes on the many fronts of the country’s picture perfect façade outing it as a smokescreen concealing an increasingly dysfunctional government. He signalled to Botswana’s position as the fourth largest unequal society in the world trailing industrialising and developing BRICs economies with millions of people in population despite Botswana having a small population of just over 2 million.
Tsie also alluded to the country’s failed economic diversification drive which he contends should have long been executed when the country was still experiencing unfettered steady economic growth. He further argued the economy’s continuous hinge on minerals and mineral extraction leaves the country riskily liable to global economic unrest as circumstanced by the 2008 economic recession.
The UB Don further brought the forgotten debate of old to the fore, questioning and probing Setswana’s quasi-arbitral elevation to status of national language over other languages in a republic state, continuing to state that cultural minorities in the country are not fully recognised.
Tsie lampooned the Parliament of Botswana as a weak oversight institution, “There is a serious democratic deficit in parliament of Botswana and it is very weak, in fact far weaker than the Independent Electoral Commission.”
This, he attributed to the principle of collective responsibility as government ministers and assistant ministers are drawn from the executive wing of state concluding that for that reason parliament of Botswana finds itself not mirroring the plight and prospects of the nation.
Tsie also poured scorn on the constitutionally engrained selection of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and nominated councillors as undemocratic as it bears the hallmarks and trappings of political patronisation.
For his part, BOFEPUSU boss, Johannes Tshukudu held the viewpoint of Botswana as a regressing nation; positing that the country has a populace not well conversant with political education. He said the educated city and town dwellers represent a tiny fraction of the country’s educated and politically conscious section, a prospect he is convinced spells doom for participatory democracy and progression.
Tshukudu also observed that there is a thick air of intolerance hung in the corridors of state power as responses to national issues by the country’s political leadership is often met with fiery personalised retorts. He went on to say that while the country’s civic society lacks political consciousness, its Non-Governmental Organisations are also hamstrung by their monetary links to government thus failing to accurately execute their roles of providing oversight duty to government.
Private media journalist and columnist Spencer Mogapi attributed the country’s dwindling fortunes to being lost in the nostalgia of the national success of yester years, describing it as being “hostages of our own history.”
Mogapi who chided Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s perceived ignorance on the latest national unemployment figures said that it becomes hard for Batswana to embrace and assist the BDP in developing the nation while the popularised Ntuane reforms are aimed at saving the party and not the country.
He also ridiculed the government for glorifying poverty by shelling handouts when it could have long cut poverty when the country was experiencing unfettered economic growth adding that it is difficult to see the results of the P500 million pumped into poverty eradication.
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.