Human rights organisations, the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) have not taken kindly to the position and remarks uttered by Evangelist Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) and their attitude towards minority group of gays and lesbians.
Recently the church umbrella body, EFB, has been lobbying the government of Botswana to appeal a High Court ruling that ordered the gay organisation to legally register. However the government did not appeal the matter during the stipulated time given by the courts to do so.
LEGABIBO went to court following the registration rejection by the department of Civil and National Registration under the auspices of Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs under the pretext that homosexuality is unlawful in Botswana. Consequently, LEGABIBO went to court for intervention – and court ruled in favour of the gay movement.
The church movement has since poured scorn at the court judgement arguing that ordering the registration of LEGABIBO whose objects are to advocate for recognition and protection of homosexuality is a hammer to the society’s moral conscience, adding that “the judgment is likely to cause a spin in an acceleration of moral deterioration and moral bankruptcy which will add to the already burden of lawlessness and social ills in our society.”
In response BONELA and LEAGABIBO this week fumed at the church movement during an interview with the WeekendPost. They stated that, “EFB should not and must not be allowed to dictate or influence who can or cannot be registered with the registrar of societies.” The two human rights organisations argue that LEGABIBO were applicants just like any other body that wanted to register.
“The moment EFB is allowed to do so; we can all kiss our freedoms goodbye because we will wake up to the entire nation being run by a certain church denomination.” They continued: “should this happen, we are at the risk of having institutions that are different to them being outlawed; it could be a church that does not fall under their church body or an organisations that deals with women rights, any religion outside its belief being banned in Botswana and certain constitutional provisions stricken out.”
LEGABIBO Coordinator, Caine Youngman urged all Batswana to respect each other and to respect rights provided for by the Constitution. He referred the EFB ‘for their convenience,’ to the constitutional provisions of Section 13 which provides for the protection of freedom of assembly and association, Section 12 which provides for the protection of freedom of expression and also Section 15 which provides for protection from discrimination.
According to LEGABIBO Coordinator, Botswana is a constitutionally run sovereign state and its sovereignty trickles down to individual autonomy of every Motswana hence all are recognised as individuals. “Every Motswana is protected and respected before the law,” he told this publication, adding that respect before the law means one has the platform to point out where he/she thinks he has been hurt or prejudiced.
“The lesbians, gays and bisexuals of Botswana did just that. The registrar of societies denied this community their constitutional right to associate and they pointed it out. The High Court of Botswana following the law, agreed with these Batswana. The ruling was that this community has the right to associate as provided by the Constitution of Botswana. The Constitution of Botswana has made provisions that are to be respected and adhered to for peace, tolerance and justice.”
Youngman attacked the EFB saying they are toying around with such provisions and highlighted that EFB is a body that followed the same processes LEGABIBO engaged with to get registered. “They used the same legal provisions to register as a way to exercise their freedom of association.”
The gay organisation lamented that it is hypocrisy for EFB to then turn around and call for LEGABIBO not to be registered considering they benefitted from the same provision.
BONELA and LEGABIBO reminded EFB that there are people who do not believe in the existence of EFB, its mandate and its practices but they all respect their existence because they have a right to associate despite being different from them.
Some of people are from traditional churches, some spiritual, and some are non-Christian believers but they tolerate EFB’s existence not because they agree with them, but merely because it is EFB’s right to associate with like minded people.
According to the two human rights organisations, the difference between the Constitution and EFB is that the constitution caters for everybody – be it a Muslims, Catholics, Zion followers, non religious person, gay, heterosexual, worker, student, children, senior citizens etc. As long as one is a human being in Botswana, they contend the Constitution applies to them. However, they highlighted that same cannot be said about EFB as it only caters for those who associate themselves with EFB.
EFB is an Umbrella body of Evangelical, Pentecostal and Para Church organizations in the country that has a membership denomination currently standing at seventy nine.
BONELA and LEGABIBO believe that if we start singling out who can be protected by our laws and who cannot, who has the right to be heard and who doesn’t, who has the rights to express themselves and who doesn’t, then we are making ourselves vulnerable to all sorts of abuses by overzealous bodies.
“Since it is not your liberties at stake it might seem okay. Today they are calling for LEGABIBO not to be registered. Tomorrow it will be you and those you peacefully associate with. The question to all of us is ‘who is next on their hit list?’ Will it be radio stations because they are said to be playing ‘ungodly music?” or who, they asked.
Meanwhile LEGABIBO Coordinator confirmed that his organisation has submitted all the documentation necessary to process their registration and now awaiting respond from the department (Civil and National registration).
LEGABIBO is a human rights organisation whose mandate is to represent the interests and protect the rights of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex community in Botswana while BONELA is a non-governmental organisation committed to integrating an ethical, legal and human rights approach into Botswana’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.