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Friday, 19 April 2024

Gender policy opens debate on homosexuality


MP for Mahalapye East Tshireletso Botlogile said the gender policy is shying away from addressing issues of homosexuality.

The National Policy on Gender and Development currently debated in parliament has opened up a debate on the thorny issue of homosexuality which has been an elusive subject for national debate by various politicians.

The policy, which was tabled by Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu last week, will replace the current Women in Development Policy. Batshu said the introduction of this policy was facilitated by the verity that gender has become a prominent item on the agenda and dialogue of all recent international meetings.

The policy frame work debate was nearly closed last week when no MP raised to debate the frame work after it was tabled before parliament. However, Boko made a request to the Speaker of the National Assembly to have the debate deferred to a later debate to give MPs ample time to study the policy frame work since the gender policy was too important to not be debated.  

Debating the policy frame work this week, Leader of Opposition and Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Duma Boko argued that it is imperative for gender, in the modern day to not only be treated as a matter about males and females but with the inclusion of transgendered people as well.

Boko noted that although adoption of the new policy is a positive move, a lot of important factors remain unaddressed and renders the document inadequate. While previously the issue of gender policy and empowerment was only associated with women the new one moved further to include men as part of the agenda.

However Boko said the exclusion of critical issues like inter-sex and transgender makes the policy discriminatory as it would not uplift people who fall under that category. “Gender is a complex matter and the policy should have approached it in a holistic manner,” he stated, “It excludes and fails to recognise them.”  

Supporting Boko’s views, MP for Mahalapye East Tshireletso Botlogile said the gender policy is shying away from addressing issues of homosexuality. Botlogile said the time has arrived for Botswana to open up a national debate on homosexuality because other countries have recognised it. “This gender policy gives us opportunities as MPs to talk about issues of homosexuality and abortion,” she expressed.

“It should be part and parcel of the commission which the minister seeks to establish.”

Tshireletso who has been vocal and emerged as a strong proponent of abortion and homosexuality said majority of legislators are afraid of debating these issues openly because of fear of how people will react to their views on these controversial topics. “We all know that there are people who are homosexuals and we live with them but we are afraid of talking about it,” he said. “We see it the world over that countries are have made progress in decriminalising these issues.”

Tshireletso said she was a target of number of non-governmental organisation ahead of 2014 general elections among them a religious based organisation Evangelist Fellowship Botswana (EFB) which stated that legislators and politicians who supported homosexuality and abortion should not be voted.

Tshireletso said legislators should not allow and use culture and religion to justify discrimination of some section of the society, and insisted that culture is dynamic. “We should not allow people to live a sad life for the fear of being victimised,” she said. “There is no need to fear these changes and government should enact a law.”

Former Minister of Education and Skills Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi also said the policy should encompass factors raised by Boko to ensure that the rights of others are taken into account. Venson-Moitoi supported the gender policy and said it will address protection of spouses in marriage. She said while the law recognises marital rape, the recognition is allowed in favour of women not men.

Other MPs who supported the inclusion of homosexuality include MP for Tati East Guma Moyo who said there was scientific evidence that some people are born with hormonal imbalance resulting in people being transgendered.   

Women are their own enemy
Interestingly, Boko, on the issue of women empowerment revealed that women are their own enemies. He said that women do not make significant numbers in politics and positions of power because some women play a pivotal role in ensuring that other women do not reach the same heights as them.

“We have women who when they ascend to positions of power kick the ladder to ensure that no other woman will emulate them,” he contended. “Women take pride in being the first and only to achieve certain mileages.”

Boko referred the house to various studies conducted in previous years that most women were not comfortable being led by other women. “Once in power, most women even in the corporate industry become petty, jealousy and arrogant making it difficult for other women to succeed their leadership,” he contended, “Women are partly to blame for the current state of affairs.”

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”










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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.


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