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Tebelelo Seretse: Classic example of sidelining of women in Botswana politics


The only woman in the race for the BDP chairmanship seemingly remains unfazed by the drama and willy-dealing within that party. She is currently hot on the campaign trail and will push through the D-Day. In the societal context, she is a lily among thorns!

Tebelelo Seretse did not beat about the bush in making her intentions known about running for the BDP executive top post. Interestingly, it is not her first time running for that office. The last time she ran for that seat was in 2009 and she was defeated by Daniel Kwelagobe.

The clock is ticking fast and the tide is clearly shifting away from her.


Vice President Masisi has pulled all stops, apparently with the approval and assistance of President Khama, and is giving the other contenders a full run for their money. Some big-wigs and veterans at the party seem to also endorse Masisi by virtue of his being the hand-picked Vice President.

Seteng Motalaote has gone on to withdraw from the race, either because he feared the inevitable or as a sign of respect for the party leadership.  

Seretse, however, is not ready to bow out. Of all the candidates, Seretse stands out as the one with the most experience and knowledge of the inner workings of the party.
Undoubtedly, her party record is impressive.

Graduating from the BDP Youth Wing, Seretse was a member of the Central Committee who then went on to head the party’s Women’s Wing. A former Member of Parliament, she crowned her illustrious presence in the BDP with a diplomatic post to the United States – a country to which most countries always send their best, knowledgeable and most articulate representatives.

Now, Seretse is once again daring herself into a tough situation. Many people believe she is destined for yet another disappointment at the BDP’s congress coming in July.


But Seretse has never shied away from challenges; win or lose, she relishes a fair fight. She has lived for the party; she has long been a party activist and has significant strategies and achievements attributed to her within the BDP.


It is going to be a bruising fight.

The BDP Youth Wing, among other committees in the BDP, has pledged full support for Masisi. Most of the membership seems to have been swayed to the VP’s side, mostly because of his campaign machinery which has gone all out and did a masterful job.


There is no doubt, however, that Seretse would be a more fitting candidate and could possibly brew a shocker but, as always, being a woman, she is almost guaranteed to lose.


It would have been a very interesting race if Masisi had not ploughed into the race using the VP card.


Only two women, including Seretse herself, have tried before but no woman has ever held this position in the BDP.

Seretse was the first woman to try her luck in 2009 but lost to party veteran and former MP for Molepolole South, Daniel Kwelagobe.
More recently, Dr. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi also tried in 2012 but lost to one of BDP’s richest men, Samson Guma Moyo.

Botswana is one of Africa’s top performers in many governance indicators but has dragged its feet on women representation in politics. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Report and Index, the country has made great strides in achieving gender equality.

In 2014, Botswana ranked 51 out of 142 countries surveyed. In terms of female participation in the economy, it was ranked number 8 in the world; and with regard to equality of educational attainment, it stood at first place over five years.

That notwithstanding, Botswana has the lowest rate of participation and representation of women in politics in the Southern African Development Community region.


Botswana women held only 27 per cent of cabinet positions in 2002 – a low figure that further declined to 17 per cent in 2012, signifying a major reversal.


In 2014, the figure further decreased to less than 10%.

In parliament, women representation has since decreased from 18.2% in 2002 to the current 7%.

The BDP, being the dominant party, should demonstrate its support for women participation in politics and leadership. Technically, women in the BDP should stand a better chance to win, should they be afforded required support and opportunities.


It is sad that the BDP has denied women candidates like Bonolo Motsumi (who tried to become secretary general) and Dr. Margaret Nasha (who ran for the same post).
Now the same fate seems to be happening to Seretse.

None of the women who have contested have used the gender card, not that they should. As seen, Seretse’s resume speaks for itself, she has achieved as much, or even more than the other contenders, the VP included.

Ironically, only Daniel Kwelagobe has come out to openly pledge his support for Seretse. Gender activist and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha, in a recent media report could not reveal who she supported but did align herself more with Seretse by indicating that suspicions that she could support Seretse, who is a woman like herself “could be true”.

After being elected Chairperson of the Women’s Wing, Dorcas Makgato did not want to speak openly about who her committee endorsed.
Seretse’s entry into the same race in 2009 was marked as historic in the party books and yet the BDP does not seem to be in any mood to make actual history with Seretse.

Not surprisingly, however, the Botswana government has not ratified the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and this has been interpreted as government’s lack of commitment to women’s rights and their participation in politics.

In Articles 4, 12 and 13 of the SADC Gender Protocol on Gender and Development, adopted by SADC Heads of State and Government in August 2008,emphasis is placed on the importance of a “50:50 target” on representation of women and men in politics and decision making positions in SADC.



“Enhancing Political representation of women requires changes within the political party systems, national policies and the legal framework to allow for the inclusion of women,” wrote Keneilwe Mooketsane in a 2014 BIDPA Policy Brief, Gender and Political Representation in Botswana.

“The creation of opportunities for representation of women or the provision of political space for decision making does not necessarily translate into political influence or gender equity policies particularly in an environment where the government is yet to inculcate a gender sensitive perspective in its policy making. However, it would be a commendable effort and a starting point towards political empowerment of women.”

The BDP will hold its elective congress in Mmadinare this July. MP Biggie Butale, former MPs Ramadeluka Seretse and Tebelelo Seretse, Moemedi Dijeng, Dithapelo Tshotlego and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi are contesting for the hot seat.

Masisi, the latest entrant in the race, is expected to automatically succeed President Khama as Head of State when the President retires in 2018.

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Masisi, DIS come under scrutiny at UN Rights Committee 

25th October 2021
masisi & magosi

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Directorate of Intelligence (DIS) came under the lens of the United Nations Human Rights Committee during the just ended dialogue between committee members and the Botswana delegation. 

Scores of issues, among them the country’s reports on topics including whether Masisi abused the State of Emergency Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged surveillance and harassment of members of the public by DIS, were addressed at the session.

A Committee expert asked about legislation in the Penal Code allowing the Government to investigate people who expressed opinions against public figures, particularly the President. How many cases were there of journalists who had been investigated, prosecuted and tried?
Concerning the COVID-19 Emergency Powers Act, there was a provision for a fine or a five-year jail term for journalists using “source(s) other than the Director of Health Services or the World Health Organization” when reporting on COVID-19. The Committee Expert asked for the number of cases and other measures taken under this Act.

Another committee expert wanted to know that the scale and scope of electronic surveillance, which had sharply increased in recent years, was concerning. Furthermore, the Committee was troubled at the lack of a sufficient independent oversight mechanism over the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services that reportedly had contributed to a growing climate of fear and chilling effect on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians. In this respect, a Committee Expert asked about the measures taken by Botswana during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the right to privacy was protected (collection and management of personal data).

The Expert also enquired about a database website, which was not functioning but was supposed to contain documents of Botswana’s international human rights commitments.
In terms of the freedom of assembly, while the Constitution of the State party guaranteed it, the Committee had received information that, in practice, the Public Order Act required citizens to apply to the nearest police for a permit to hold an assembly, and police had sometimes denied requests for unclear reasons.

The Committee Expert asked if the Public Order Act of the State party had been applied in conformity with those tests. Would the State party indicate the measures it had taken and/or intended to take to make the application of the law in question strictly compatible with the requirements under article 21? Furthermore, the Committee had also received allegations that police officers sometimes used force to compel gathering people to disperse. In this regard, the Expert asked for information on legal provisions and practical guidelines under which police officers may resort to force and any training programme if any, for police and other law enforcement officers to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly.

A Committee Expert asked about cases of holding people for longer periods under pre-trial detention than the maximum period provided for in legislation, 36 months, instead of six. Were there any plans to shorten the duration of pre-trial detention in legislation? The Committee noted that there was no provision for local community broadcasting. What measures were the State party taking to ensure that the local communities could also communicate in their language in the media?

What measures had been undertaken by Botswana to increase sustainable development in the country regarding climate change in particular. What efforts had been undertaken to ensure that customary courts worked up to speed? A Committee Expert asked about children in rural areas who travelled a long way to their schools. The delegation was asked about the independence of the Ombudsman Office, including provisions for appointing the Ombudsman. What budget was envisaged for this Office?

The Expert acknowledged the established procedures and institutions for anti-human trafficking but expressed concerns about the lack of reported cases. The Expert asked about the accountability of the public prosecution, as well as the intelligence services. Replying, the Botswana delegation, led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng, said there was an ongoing consultation for revising provisions that would ensure better protection for journalists and media freedom in Botswana.

Still, the delegation said, freedom of expression was assured in the State party without any restrictions, including in Parliament. There was an education programme providing the opportunity for children in primary school to be taught in their mother tongue. It also explained that the Ombudsman would be dealing with issues of human rights promotion and protection.

“National policies and procedures were envisaged to control the distribution of natural resources. Botswana was also taking measures to increase the access of minority groups to education. Regarding pre-trial detention, the delegation explained that the criminal procedure assured justice was preserved in the country,” said the delegation.

On the issue of torturer and alleged use of unreasonable force on suspects, the Botswana delegation explained that police officers were trained to use minimal force, ensuring that human rights were preserved, including in the cases of assemblies. On the use of surveillance, no legal provisions were breached, and such measures were used in accordance with national legislation. Legal aid was very costly, and it was not possible to keep the record in detail as asked by the Committee.

Morwaeng told the Committee that the Government maintained a robust consultative approach to policy development and legislative process. He said this was a system of governance that ensured that the voices of ordinary citizens were respected and taken into account in the social, economic and political process that affected them the most, giving full effect to the full enjoyment of human rights across the board. The delegation took due note of the views of the Committee, including the importance of harnessing information technology to give a broader appreciation of the provisions of the Covenant.

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Masisi on P1 billion water investment

25th October 2021
water project

The P1 billion water project launched by President Dr vMokgweetsi Masisi this week is said to be critical to the success of key projects planned in Lobatse – the Lobatse Milk Afric and Leather Park. After commissioning the multi-million Pula Masama-Mmamashia water project last week following its completion, on Thursday, Masisi performed ground-breaking ceremony of yet another major water project, the Lobatse Water Supply Master Plan (LWSMP1).

The water project was conceptualized in 2009 to address water shortage in areas along the Greater Gaborone zone. These areas include Ramotswa, Otse, Mogobane, Mankgodi, Manyana, Goodhope, Lekgolobotlo, Mmathethe, Molapowabojang and villages surrounding. It was said that some major upcoming projects in Lobatse such as Lobatse Leather Park, Milk Afric and the Pioneer Border Gate are dependent on the success of this project, in order for them to take off and operate effectively. The two projects have been struggling to take-off despite government having put the necessary resources.

The Lobatse Leather Park is anticipated to create about 4700 jobs at the initial stage and 7000 jobs at full capacity. The project entails the development of a complex for different tanneries with the support of state-owned beef company, Botswana Meat Commission. It will comprise primary infrastructure such as a common effluent treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, and others.

When operational, the park is expected to supply the private sector with hides and skins, raw to finished leather tanneries, and the manufacturing of different leather products. These products include shoes, belts, jackets, and others, thereby playing an instrumental role in stimulating economic activity. Leather Beneficiation Park is seen as important for the leather industry as it would ensure that Botswana moves from exporting raw leather to finished leather goods. It is said research has established that there are plenty of hides and skins in the country from the three million cattle and 1.8 million goats.

Meanwhile, Milk Afric dairy farm project which was expected to be complete by the second half of 2018, is in the wilderness after the initial partnership between Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and Milk Afric failed to bear fruits. BDC has been searching for a new partner for the project. Once fully operational, the farm will produce a total of 21.9 million litres or one third of the national milk demand, which is 65 million litres a year. At present, Botswana imports over 58.8 million litres from South Africa at a cost of P345 million annually.

The P120 million project is a Public Private Partnership deal between Lobatse Town Council (LTC),  with 10 percent shareholding through leasing its 1375.4 ha farm for 25 years; and 26 percent (P40 million) by Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). When speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony held in Ramotswa, Masisi said, in addition to improving the water supply for domestic needs and livelihoods, this infrastructural development will facilitate major projects in the Lobatse region, which are critical to the ailing, old town.

“Our objective as a country is to align developments with the National Vision 2036 Pillar 3 on Sustainable Development, which recognizes water as a very scarce resource which requires strategic management by key players.” Botswana is a developing country with an increasing population, Masisi said, adding that an increase in population naturally causes exponential growth in the demand for water. This is a reality that Botswana is faced with and challenged to address for sustainable water supply, the President said.

He indicated that this is why they are continuously witnessing major water projects undertaken by government, in collaboration with key partners. “Gaborone and surrounding areas have been experiencing an acute water supply deficit due to infrastructure that has outlived its potential to meet the growing demand for water by citizens. This particular project entails the construction of a Pump Station at Forest Hill in Gaborone, a 57 kilometre pipeline from Gaborone to Lobatse and a new Northern reservoir.”

The project, awarded China State Construction and Engineering Corporation/Van and Truck Hire Joint Venture at over P1 billion, is currently at 49% of its completion stage. There are 637 jobs created by this water project. “The transmission pipeline will convey 63 million litres of water a day from Gaborone to Lobatse. This is a great improvement compared to an average supply of 14 million litres of water that has been supplied to Lobatse, Borolong and surrounding areas,” Masisi said.

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UN quizzes Botswana on gays, Sebina defilement case

25th October 2021
EU

The United Nations Committee on Human Rights has taken Botswana to task over what it considers to be discrimination laws against lesbians and gays and delay in prosecuting suspects in the infamous Sebina defilement case.  The Botswana delegation led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng found itself against the wall before the United Nations Human Rights Committee of experts in Geneva, Switzerland.  

First to take Botswana head-on was the UN Committee member, C SOH, who noted that the recent ruling of the High Court pays particular attention to the penal code penalising same-sex sexual conduct as it found that it infringed on the constitutional rights, dignity, liberty and privacy of the LGBTI persons (lesbians and gays).  “Nonetheless, I note with deep concern that those discriminatory provisions of the of the penal code remain in effect and regrettably the government stated in its periodic review before deciding whether or not to repeal section 164 it would still await the final determination of the court of appeal in the case of Motshidiemang vs State,” said Soh.

According to Soh, “This statement makes us cast doubt on the will of the government to vigorously” strike out section 164, which criminalises sex between people of the same sex.  “In this respect, I would like to ask the delegation to explain what the intended goal by the government was when it filed an appeal against the unconstitutionality ruling of the High Court,” he said. Soh said the Botswana Government had also explained that no persons had been convicted under this provision, section 164, ever since the penal code was enacted.

“However, media reports indicate that in August 2016, the government of a Gaborone Magistrate Court sentenced a man three years in prison who had been charged and convicted under section 164 for engaging in unnatural acts. Can the delegation explain these discrepancies relating to persons who have been convicted and sentenced under section 164 of the penal code,” he said.  He also wanted the Botswana delegation to explain how the government addresses how customary courts have been discriminating against LGBTI persons.

Another member of the UN Committee, Duncan Muhumuza, expressed concern that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has taken more than four years to prosecute suspects in the Sebina saga in which a councillor was alleged to have slept with a student who was also a minor.
Replying to concerns raised by the UN experts, Mogakolodi Segwagwa, chief state counsel at the Attorney General Chambers, noted that one of the UN committee members has “become fearful that the fact that government appealed the case could be a sign that there is lack of will or doubt on the part of the government as to abolishing or outlawing of same-sex relations.”

“But I would like to assure the panel that Botswana has over the years proved itself at all times to be compliant with court orders. There are many examples I could put forward where the government had to make sure that court orders were executed. That is the assurance I can give out to the committee,” said Segwagwa.  He said there was a good reason for appealing the decision of the High Court in which it outlawed section 164.

“This was a High Court decision, and as you know in our jurisdiction when a judge is at the same court with his brothers and his sisters and fellow judges, whatever decision he puts out so far as that particular court is concerned, it is not law because it is not binding on his fellow brothers and sisters and it is not binding on fellow judges,” explained Segwagwa. He added that “It is merely persuasive so much so that some other judges may choose to when a similar case comes before him or her, depart and ignore the position that that particular judge espoused, and he or she can do so with ease.”

Segwagwa further explained that “There was a very pressing need for this matter to be appealed to the Court of Appeal for purposes of crystalising the law and for purposes of ensuring that if there is any aspect of the law that the High Court had overlooked in arriving at this particular decision, then such an aspect can be taken into consideration by the Court of Appeal.” “So we are waiting for that judgement, and once it comes, it will be implemented. I take it that the committee would like the Court of Appeal to uphold the decision below and strike out this particular section.”

He assured the UN experts that when the High Court struck out section 164 in 2019, the country did not erupt into violence, adding that this was an “indication that we don’t have anything against people of LGBT. They are our brothers and sisters, and we co-exist with them.”  Regarding the Sebina saga, Segwagwa said the painful case “where this councillor was said to have had sexual intercourse with a child is the police dealt with a matter as it is the law and we all know that the police are bound by their Act to do so without fear and prejudice.”

He said Upon completion of their investigation, “the matter was handed over to the prosecuting authority, as Mr Muhumuza had indicated, it has been four years and we concede that four years is a long time and that it is unreasonably a long time and that it defeats the whole adage that justice should be sweetest and freshest so much so that the case needed to be speeded along.”

He added that “But the problem we have which is not a problem in the sense of it being a problem, but the impediment we have in the sense that the Constitution created the Office of the Director of Prosecutions under section 51 subsection A and if you go to that particular section and you read subsection six, the director shall not be subjected to the control of another authority.”

Segwagwa said, “this is the section that was inserted in this constitution to safeguard the independence of the Director of DPP to ensure that he or she prosecutes matters without fear, favour and prejudice and it presents impediment where we can’t try and say to the DPP, go and register or indicate your position now, tomorrow or next year and that is why it has taken all this time, but we believe attempts are being made that it finds its way to the court.”

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