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.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”