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Opposition walkout: BDP ready to compromise

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip Fidelis Molao has said his party is willing to compromise so as to accommodate opposition grievances over the election of members of the National Assembly’s standing committees.

Molao said they are amenable to discuss and give way in some of the positions. He said they have realised that the opposition MPs were riled more especially by an election that was to determine members of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU). “We are waiting for them to cool down so that we may discuss,” he said.

20 Opposition Members of Parliament staged a walk-out on Thursday after they were denied a chance to chair or be members of certain working committees of Parliament. They accused the BDP of coming up with an unfair and undemocratic criteria of appointing members to these committees.

In an interview, the BDP Chief Whip explained that while they are willing to compromise, they are surprised by the opposition’s “cry baby” mentality which in a way mocks democracy. “As the BDP we are in a majority, when it comes to decisions that are taken through a vote, we will most definitely win,” he said.

Molao observed that the BDP has always dominated the membership of committees and it has never been an issue because it has always had many MPs. He said as Parliament they had adopted a formula that would ensure that other party’s majority will not be distorted. He said the Selection Committee chaired by the Speaker met two weeks ago to agree on the lists of MPs to be distributed accordingly across various committees.

The Selection Committee also has BDP Chief Whip, Leader Opposition, Duma Boko, BDP’s Thato Kwerepe and Opposition Whip, Wynter Mmolotsi as members. According to Molao, the BDP and the Opposition both brought forward their wish lists and names were placed in various committees. “Even the BCP which has the least number of MPs was slotted in. If we had followed the law to the letter, the BCP will not have made it into any of the sub committees,” he said.

Molao further explained that the process was completed with the Speaker, who had used her discretion to bend the law, announced the names of people according to the committees they will serve, “there was no objection from the floor,” he added.

Molao explained that the problem arose because every time there is an election, the BDP won the position of chairman because of its numbers in Parliament. He said the last straw was with the election of membership of the IPU which the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition are automatic members.

He said they had to elect an extra four members – a woman and one of the other three must be under 40 years. “As the BDP we decided that we will take two slots and give one to the Opposition,” said Molao. The BDP had to decide between Dr Unity Dow and Ms Botlogile Tshireletso.

The Opposition wanted to include Dithapelo Keorapetse and Ms Same Bathobakae. On the other hand the BDP wanted to bring in Kefentse Mzwinila through the Under 40 banner, so there was a conflict. We decided that there be an election and four ballot papers were distributed to MPs. The problems ensued when the ballot could not tally and there to be another round of voting. Opposition MPs decided to quit the process,” he said.

According to Molao, they are willing to compromise and accommodate the opposition because membership of parliament committees is not about party colours but ability. He said in the last parliament, they rarely decided matters of standing committees through votes.

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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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