Botswana’s international reputation as a haven for wildlife could be at risk because of the country’s inability to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes effectively.
Normal practice is such that when investigations of crimes are complete cases are then passed to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) which has the mandate to try the cases on behalf of the State before courts. However it has come clear at the recent Joint Law Enforcement Forum that the two parties are fighting a losing battle in the courts due to lack of cooperation.
A closed joint law enforcement meeting was recently held at Maun Lodge, and the top agenda was to plot out how relevant security agencies could tackle their failures in wildlife crimes court cases. The forum summoned senior officials from security agencies comprising of the Botswana Police Services, Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Prisons Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Directorate of Intelligence on Security and Services.
Presiding over the forum was Divisional Commander North, Senior Assistant Commissioner, Dinah Marathe who revealed that from the comprehensive analysis of cases they handle indications are that the country is failing to adequately deal with wildlife crimes. Marathe expressed that improved cooperation between law enforcement agencies, prosecution and the courts could contribute immensely in the reduction and possible elimination of wildlife crimes.
Marathe asserted that it was vital for Botswana law enforcement agencies to share information and technical expertise with a view to increasing their knowledge capacity.
It was revealed that the Northern Region is the most affected district. North Western part of Botswana is rich in biodiversity and home to many endangered species of wild fauna and flora. As a result the region is regarded a hotspot for wildlife crimes and illegal cross border activities.
Marathe explained that there was need for the country’s law enforcers to interrogate their capabilities with a view to investigating and prosecuting cases of wildlife crimes more effectively. The Divisional Commander demonstrated that cooperation among the investigators and prosecutors is not satisfactory. “Common standards for investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes will be an important step towards improved cooperation among us,” stressed Marathe.
According to Marathe the country needs to come up with strategies to close existing gaps in the country’s investigations and prosecution of wildlife crimes and set the standard as a national bench mark.
Marathe stated that it was time law enforcement agencies started to enlist in their processes of wildlife crimes the use of scientific procedures to examine, identify and compare evidence from crime scenes, and to link the evidence gathered with a suspect and a victim (wild animal). She highlighted that forensic scientists have become more involved in the investigation of wild animals that are protected from hunting by laws.
Divisional Prosecutions Officer North, Omphemetse Mashiqa reiterated that there was weak communication between the investigations team and the prosecutors.
“No communication between the two cause failures, it leads to lack of common understanding of the case during trials.In the end courts fail to link our facts because of the disparities between the investigators and prosecutors,” Mashiqa pointed out.
He further advised that spontaneous prosecutions are solidified by good investigations so the two teams needed to improve to rectify their mistakes.
Mashiqa however took side for his office and charged the investigations team for the numerous errors they make during the process of investigating cases before handing them over to the prosecutions team.
He said that the investigations team normally fails to record case statements at the earliest stage of offences. Mashiqa advised that it was vital for statements to be recorded when facts of the case were still fresh in the minds of investigating officers. He complained that failure to do so lead to investigators mixing statements of different cases, a major contributor to their failures in the courts.
Mashiqa also plotted that the investigation team fails to preserve the scene where wildlife crime incidents took place. The Divisional Prosecutions Officer North warned that various interventions of the events should be avoided adding that investigators’ roles must be clearly defined. He also stressed that prosecutors are failing to understand the importance of photographing scenes which can be presented as evidence before courts.
Weekend Post can reveal that magistrate Pandliwe Taka of Maun Magistrate Court was drawn in to give her advice on the judicial side. However, when magistrate Taka was about to take the podium an urgent decision was taken to throw out the Press and turn the forum into a closed session.
Wildlife crimes are recognized as one of the largest transnational organized crimes, alongside drugs, arms and human trafficking. At a summit recently held in Kasane on the 25th March 2015, representatives of governments and regional economic integration organizations acknowledged that to successfully tackle the illegal wildlife trade demands a strong and coordinated enforcement response was essential.
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.