Mogae says his organization has petitioned anti-gay countries in writing
NEW YORK – Renowned for his relentless fight against HIV/AIDS, former President Dr Festus Mogae, teamed up with together with the United Nations Secretary general, Ban ki-Moon this week and launched a scathing attack on countries opposed to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) rights.
The two opinion leaders further called on such states to reconsider their positions if they really value human rights. Botswana is among the countries whose laws are still considered to be anti-LGBT rights. However in terms of law enforcement, the country law enforcement agencies are not viewed as harassing the groups.
Before being appointed Minister of Education and Skills Development, Dr Unity Dow last year spearheaded three sensitive cases of transgendered people after the Office of the President told her clients that ‘they were not recognized in Botswana laws.’ They eventually got assistance through her intervention. She had threatened to take the matter to court.
Speaking at the High Level LGBT Core Group Event in New York this at the United Nations headquarters, Mogae started off by quoting one of the renowned humanitarians, the late Mother Theresa when she said: “human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human beings entitlement by virtue of humanity”.
Mogae, who has been preaching a parallel message to President Lt Gen Ian Khama and churches on the issue, said protection of the rights of all sectors of the population, no matter how small the sector remains one of the fundamental responsibilitiesof any leader.
“A leader is not only responsible to the most powerful group, the richest, the loudest, the largest or those of similar political orientation. The smallest, most vulnerable, most disenfranchised, most excluded, most discriminated sectors of the population should remain highest in a leader’s priority and must be protected,” he charged to a loud applause from a full conference.
Mogae further said that laws in many Africa countries dehumanize those at highest risk for HIV, such as sex workers, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgendered people who use drugs, prisoners, and migrants. “Rather than providing protection, these laws render these sections of our societies much more vulnerable to HIV and unnecessary deaths due to AIDS related illnesses,” he said.
The former president further remarked in his long speech that in the African continent, one of the most fundamental ideals they have fought is that of non-discrimination on grounds of skin colour, religious orientation and other beliefs.
“We uphold these beliefs passionately, yet ironically, discrimination against LGBT is still upheld and justified by our nations and their laws. As champions for an AIDS Free Generation, we have written and appealed to the leaders in these countries to consider their positions and rights of LGBT, and we will continue our advocacy until justice for all is attained,” Mogae said to the applause of the audience.
The champions for AIDS Free Generation Programme is chaired by Mogae and is committed to speaking out strongly against discrimination of all groups, especially that of LGBT.
“Same sex sexual activity, the most basic right, is now legal in 25 countries in Africa. For the rest of our countries it is punishable by imprisonment of differing periods up to life and going as far as the death penalty,” he said.
South Africa is the most progressive country in Africa in all LGBT rights laws. In the Southern African region, which is the most affected by AIDS, only three countries do not criminalize same sex sexual activity for both men and women. In four countries it is not criminalized for women only while it is in the remainder criminalized for both sexes.
When he took over the podium, Ban ki-Moon pushed for equal rights for the community and urged governments to end discrimination.
Echoing the motto of the sustainable development goal 'Leaving No One Behind', Ban ki-Moon said this guiding vision could be reached only if everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender entity is reached out to. "In too many countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are among the poorest, most marginalized members of society," he said.
In Botswana gay and lesbian people suffer disproportionate discrimination and abuse. They are rejected by their families… kicked out of their homes … and face hard times at schools.
“Too many of our LGBT brothers and sisters are jobless, homeless and struggling to survive," the secretary general said.
The situation of transgender people is even worse overall, Ban ki-Moon said. "They have higher rates of homelessness, poverty and hunger. For individuals and their families, this is a personal tragedy. And for society, it is a shameful waste of human talent, ingenuity and economic potential," he added.
Botswana did not mention anything about LGBT rights at the UN despite this being a divisive issue in the country and internationally. The government has lost a court case in which these groups wanted to register as an organization.
The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe created a furore at the Assembly on Monday when he exclaimed: "we are not gays!" to the applause of his African counterparts.
"We equally reject attempts to prescribe new rights that are contrary to our norms, values, traditions and beliefs. We are not gays. Cooperation and respect for each other will advance the cause of human rights worldwide. Confrontation, vilification and double standards will not," he said at the GA.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”