The autonomy of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) will be tested in the High Court on August 27th this year. Seven members of the National Executive Committee of the BNYC want the court to determine whether the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture has powers to dissolve the youth structure, and they have asked Gaborone based attorney, Uyapo Ndadi to ventilate their grievances.
A few weeks after the Law Society of Botswana lodged a legal suit against the President’s decision to refuse to appoint a High Court Judge following recommendations by the Judicial Service Commission, seven members of the Botswana National Youth Council’s Executive Committee are challenging the same Presidential power which was recently used to dissolve some structures of their Council, threatening jobs of many young people in the country.
In their notice of motion filed before the Lobatse High court this week, the youth expressed their intention to request Justice Letsididi to restrain and interdict President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama and his Cabinet Minister, Thapelo Olopeng of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture from implementing the dissolution of the BNYC organs as they believe it was unprocedural.
“On the 11th July, 2015 the resolution was not to dissolve the BNYC structures but rather to allow for dialogue on the vision by the Ministry. The young people simply did not want to blindly lead the movement to an unknown path. To our surprise and shock we heard on Radio and Botswana Television that that the BNYC structures have been dissolved and our resolutions meant nothing as they have been set aside,” the affidavit explained in part, in reference to the resolution of the BNYSC special general meeting which was forced to take place by the powers that be.
At some point according to the youth, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary is alleged to have threatened the whole committee members that they will, “vanish from the surface of earth,” if they did not do as they were instructed.
Sometimes last year the government approached the BNYC National Executive Committee (NEC) board and informed it of its intention to restructure the BNYC. According to the NEC, they assured the government of their commitment to the process provided they knew what it entailed.
The government, around June 2015 changed from restructuring to dissolution of structures and the Permanent Secretary (P.S) requested the Council to have a Special General meeting to move to dissolve some of the structures as per constitutional provisions. The Ministry then sponsored the congress which usually costs around P450 000.00 according to NEC.
“We impressed on the PS to tell us what the new BNYC would look like if we were to dissolve the current structures. This is important to us and still is because we would not blindly follow a process that we had no idea what it would culminate into. We in fact had heated arguments with the P.S a day before the scheduled SGM (Special General Meeting),” the youth explained further.
It was during the heated debate that the P.S allegedly threatened that the NEC members would vanish from the surface of the earth.
The youth further assert that they got to learn about the draft resolutions of the meeting on that same day, 10 July 2015. The draft resolution essentially provided that the BNYC structures, being the General Assembly, National Executive Committee, The District Youth Council, the village youth Councils and the Secretariat are dissolved and replaced with organs created by Presidential Directive No Cab 10 B/2015.
Nonetheless, during the special general meeting, the youth defiled the draft resolution and agreed that the Ministry should instead debate the matter further and engage other stakeholders.
“As the Executive Committee we had passed resolutions to the effect that should the restructuring process be effected and should there be job losses then concerned employees should be paid for the balance of their contracts with BNYC,” the youth affidavit further revealed their stand.
The youth want the President to replace the BNYC organs that he dissolved through the said Directive. Their contention is that, the President had no right to make such decision on a body which had been declared by the High Court to be independent and autonomous. The High Court made the ruling during a previous lawsuit in regards to debts owed to a former employee by the BNYC. Although the government was a direct sponsor of BNYC, then, it refused to take responsibility of the debt.
However the government has already made clear its intention to oppose the suit. The Minister in the MYSC, Thapelo Olopeng has averred that, “clearly the BNYC is under the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture and nothing has been mentioned to outlaw the restructuring of the organs of the Council by way of a Presidential Directive.”
Olopeng through the papers filed before court has also denied knowledge of any threats made by the P.S to the BNYC youth.
“I aver that it was never the intention to dissolve BNYC. In fact BNYC has not been dissolved as a matter of fact. The SGM was therefore concerned with a matter which I never concerned myself with. Government concerned itself with dissolution of existing organs of BNYC and replacing them with organs spelt by guidelines to Presidential Directive Cab 10 (B) 2015. It was the same way the Council was created that it was now restructured. This is an Executive power which the President is empowered to exercise without the advice of anybody,” Olopeng had stated.
Lately against the backdrop of allegations of corruption activities at the BNYC the government who is the primary financial donor of the BNYC took the decision through the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) who is also a BNYC board member that they will counter sign all financial transactions emanating from the BNYC in order to curb any financial impropriety and had since moved to replace existing structures with new once.
The seven complainants, Boniface Disho, Lydia Manthe, Nonofo Mmatli, Onkemetse Mokone, Meshack Ralephurwana, Alec Fela Monyake and Lawrence Kokole are represented by Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi law firm.
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.