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BOFEPUSU, BOPEU mend relations

BOFEPUSU members singing and dancing at their congress recently

Botswana Federation of Public Servants Union (BOFEPUSU) has averted the imminent departure of want away affiliate, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) following the latter’s litany of displeasure with the mother union over the elections held over the past weekend.  

BOPEU’s acrimonious relationship with mother union, BOFEPUSU reached another level this past week with BOPEU withdrawing total participation in the recent national committee elections because of a number of complaints. BOPEU’s pulling out of the elections raised new fears that the freshly restored working relationship could go sour again as the two unions failed to reach an agreement on a number of key issues.

The BOFEPUSU conference held over the past weekend was hoped to bring the two unions together, with earlier efforts to reconcile them having failed. At the BOPEU convention last year December, the BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told the delegates that their relationship with BOPEU had been mended and they were now focusing on moving forward. “We would like to apologise to BOFEPUSU and BOPEU members because we did the injustice by exchanging words in a public domain,” said Rari.

Despite the reconciliatory tone by Rari at BOFEPUSU’s convention last year, the conference held over this past weekend has proved that the two unions’ differences are far from over, with BOPEU showing little interest in continuing as an affiliate of BOFEPUSU. BOPEU leadership had at their own convention last year put on the table a suggestion to pull out of BOFEPUSU but the delegates saved the day as they disapproved the move.    

The current BOFEPUSU and BOPEU stand-off stems from the events leading up to the 2014 elections during which the two unions started engaging in a bitter exchange of words in the media following the decision by a majority of BOFEPUSU affiliates to endorse the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ahead of the general elections. BOPEU was of the view that although it was involved, particularly its president Andrew Motsamai in cajoling the opposition parties to form a united formation at the height of the 2011 public servants strike, the leadership was not given a mandate by its membership to endorse any political party.

Weekend Post has it on good authority that the newly elected BOFEPUSU Executive Committee met BOPEU leadership at the latter’s Central District Business (CBD) offices on Wednesday this week in yet another effort to restore the relationship and listen to the affiliate’s concern. However, it turns out that although the two had smoked the peace pipe, the following day (Thursday) BOFEPUSU held another meeting to prepare for the bargaining council negotiations, which members of BOPEU, being Masego Mogwera (past immediate BOFEPUSU president and Sikalesele Seitiso (BOPEU vice president) attended and participated in its proceedings.

It is understood that at the meeting, BOFEPUSU tried to soften up its affiliate with a policy of appeasement in which members of BOPEU would be co-opted in the remaining three positions which were uncontested at the conference held over the weekend. The uncontested positions were to be initially contested by members of BOPEU and remained vacant when they refused to participate in the elections. The positions are of Deputy President, Secretary for Youth, Sports and Culture, Secretary for Occupational health and were to be contested by Sikalesele Seitiso, Kebonyemeodisa Watota and Onkemetse Mokone respectively.

However, BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshwegwa said there was no need to panic in regard to BOPEU’s status as an affiliate of the BOFEPUSU because there were no fears that BOPEU would de-affiliate. “We have met with the BOPEU leadership and they are part of the team preparing for the bargaining council negotiations,” he said.

“After the handing over of the duties by the outgoing executive committee, the new members of the executive committee will meet and co-opt members to fill the three vacant positions,” Motshegwa added.

Motshegwa went on to deny that there was any agreement reached to only co-opt members of BOPEU into the vacant positions, saying any member form affiliate unions could be co-opted.  

BOFEPUSU is made up Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU), Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and Manual Workers Union (MWU).

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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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