The unions lobby MPs to vote against amendment bill
The Botswana Federation of Public Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) have put aside their differences, and intend to focus their energies on stopping government from passing the Trade Disputes Amendment bill, which is currently before parliament.
The two unions’ animosity has spanned over years, since the formation of BOFEPUSU, established by public sector unions for the purpose of the bargaining council. However, the formation of BOFEPUSU saw some unions de-affiliating from BFTU in favour of the former.
While BOFEPUSU has enjoyed a massive membership compared to BFTU, the latter enjoyed the eminence of being recognised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a federation representing unions in Botswana. BOFEPUSU had in the past accused BFTU of misrepresenting workers at the ILO by not reporting ill-treatment subjected to workers by the government of Botswana.
This week, in a rare occasion the two unions were able to share the table to discuss the matter affecting the workers in Botswana. Although the two unions were cagey on revealing if any agreement was reached to end the ‘cold war’ on each other, the officials’ posture signalled that the two former arch-rivals could be on a rekindled relationship.
The Secretary General of BFTU, Gadzani Mhotsha firmly expressed that it was in the interest of workers for all unions in Botswana to unite or find a common ground to work together. “Going forward government could no longer divide the workers,” he stated.
Tobokani Rari, the BOFEPUSU Secretary General also said the decision to address a joint press conference by the two unions was collaboration and shows the beginning of good things, “Everything has where it starts, and it’s not the first time we work together on an issue of common ground,” Rari stated.
The issue of BOFEPUSU and BFTU animosity has not been helped by the fact that the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), an affiliate of BOFEPUSU has since last year had a troublesome relationship with the Federation. There were efforts by BOPEU leadership to consider ditching BOFEPUSU for BFTU, but the proposal was rejected by delegates at the 2014 Palapye Convention.
BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai has also publicly stated that his union will start engaging BFTU for collaboration and condemned BOFEPUSU for sidelining BFTU. Motsamai said at a press conference earlier this year that the animosity playing on between BOFEPUSU and BFTU was not helping workers but disadvantaging them.
This week’s impromptu press conference was called on after the two unions learnt about the Trade Dispute Amendment bill which has been put before MPs to be debated and adopted by the current session of parliament. The two unions are opposed to Section 46 and 47 of the Act, which will make scores of government employees’ essential services providers, therefore preventing them from engaging on strikes.
Rari said they are not entirely opposed to the contents of the bill and noted that there are good things which the bill will bring but was uncompromising on the issue of workers being denied their right to withdraw their labour in an event that the employer and unions could not reach an agreement on issues of their welfare. “Workers cannot be denied their fundamental right to strike even if it means that there are allowances that comes with workers being essential services,” said Rari.
Rari said if efforts to lobby MPs failed to produce results, the two unions will report the BDP to ILO to call for its intervention. BOFEPUSU and BFTU have written a letter to the Whips of the political parties represented in parliament including the BDP requesting to address the caucus and inform them about the implication of this amendment bill if passed.
The two unions also submitted a letter to the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly, requesting that they be given opportunity to present at the General Assembly to MPs about the proposed amendment.
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.