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Post 2014 elections: What Batswana envision

Electoral reforms going into 2019 and beyond

Following the 2014 General Elections, Batswana have reflected and introspected in the electoral process and have thus proposed an array of electoral reforms for 2019 and beyond.

A recent draft report emanating from the national stakeholders evaluation workshop for the 2014 General Elections passed to the WeekendPost, has stated that Botswana’s electoral system needs to be reviewed and in particular the Electoral Act.

According to the report, the stakeholders strongly felt that the Act should be reviewed to include proportional representation or a hybrid of proportional representation and the current First Past the Post electoral system.

Through the adoption of the model (mixed), they contended, “the system would be made to have a fairer reflection of the popular vote in the distribution of numbers of parliamentarians in the legislature”.

There has been concern that FTPT favours the incumbency, as the popular vote does not reflect the number of Members of Parliament that the party has attained in the General elections. The ruling Botswana Democratic party attained 46% of the popular vote but its number of MP’s equate to 67% (excluding 4 specially elected members), which gives an unfair advantage to the opposition.

Although the stakeholders conceded that IEC conducts credible elections and exercises some independence and fairness, there were fears that unless such independence is clearly stipulated in the constitution it is possible for a government in future to thwart such independence.

The stakeholders also recommended that the date of elections should be pre-determined and entrenched in the constitution of the republic. “This is to avert a scenario where the country’s president, who is also president of a political party, has exclusive knowledge of the date and may share it with his party to prepare ahead of political competitors,” the report states.

On the adequacy of civic and voter education, stakeholders said there was need for robust public awareness and efficient information dissemination. They recommended that the IEC needed a serious program to teach people especially the young, on elections and how they are conducted.

However, they also said the impact and effectiveness of the communication and education campaigns should be monitored. There was a general concern that the previous election did not feature adequate public awareness and if there were budgetary issues then more money should be advanced as elections though expensive must never be compromised.

According to the report, stakeholders further advised that: “to make this mandatory, civic and voter education should be entrenched in the IEC Act. The IEC should have an officer in every constituency to educate people on elections and voter education be included in the school curriculum so people learn on the importance of elections while still young.”  

On election of the president, stakeholders strongly recommended that there should be a direct election of the president of the republic of Botswana. The justification was that it would usher in a popularly and democratically elected president. The president currently is not directly elected yet wields extensive powers and this is not in the interest consolidating democracy, according to the report.

On whether there should be minimum qualifications for one to run for public office, the stakeholders overwhelmingly thought educational qualifications should not be screening criteria for elected public office.

The stakeholders argued that educational qualification does not necessarily make a person a good leader. “This would deny potentially good leaders a chance to lead, it should rather be left to the voters if they so wish to elect someone on the basis of their education,” the report reads.

The stakeholders observed that the current legal framework does not provide for electronic registration and voting but it was critical to include such. “There should be a review of the legal frame work on elections in Botswana to include electronic voter registration and voting…as these will ‘expedite’ both registration and vote counting processes.”

They asserted that there is a compelling evidence of the success of e-registration and voting in South Africa and Namibia and therefore Botswana should consider the technology in the coming 2019 National Elections.

However, they highlighted that the introduction of such technology should only be done following widespread education of stakeholders and extensive research on their reliability in Botswana context.

This publication has established that the same recommendations keep recurring after every election and cabinet is yet to act on the suggestions.

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Transgender persons in Botswana live a miserable life

23rd November 2020
Transgender persons

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.

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Khato Civils fights back, dares detractors

23rd November 2020

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.

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UDC petitioners turn to Saleshando

23rd November 2020
Dumelang Saleshando

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.

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