Unity Dow says she is more popular than most legislators
Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow, who is also Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, has weighed heavily on the debate concerning the country’s electoral system – First Past The Post (FPTP), and the Special Election of Members of Parliament as well as Nomination of Councillors.
Responding to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address this week, Dow was not impressed with the opposition chants that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was not popularly elected, hence it was a minority government. The opposition has also condemned the Special Election of MPs and Nomination of Councillors, labelling the two dispensations, a fraud meant to reward losers and rejects.
Dow herself was Specially Elected by Parliament after losing to Gilbert Mangole in the Mochudi West constituency during the October general election. Mangole was voted by 8856 people while Dow trailed with 6085 votes and the BCP’s Alfred Ramono Pilane was voted by 3558 residents.
First on Dr Dow’s radar was the question of popular vote, which she took time to dissect to the National Assembly, explaining that it can be understood in many facets. She even dispelled the said popularity of some Members of Parliament who come from constituencies similar in size to the one she contested. She stressed that she was in fact more popular than most MPs; hence their being in the house could be subjected to similar scrutiny.
DOW ON SPECIAL ELECTION OF MPS “I believe we can all agree that the Special Election of MPs process was designed to give newly elected party a chance to assess its winning margin and to audit the expertise delivered by the electorate and to then decide how to ensure that it has both the numbers and the expertise to deliver on its elections promises. That is how my party employed the system,” observed Dow.
She said if anyone does not like the system, a system regulated by law; they do not call the system a “dictatorship” and “devilish” as some MPs have decided. “They propose a reasoned and rational amendment to the law, “if the law does not pass, the UDC will be put on notice on how the UDC, they ever take power, will amend that particular law,” she said.
DOW ON POPULAR VOTE Dow further observed that complaints against the current electoral system were not limited to the SEMP system only. “There are complaints that the current electoral system of First Past the Post (FPTP) allows for the BDP to have won when it did not get the “popular vote”. The Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development said the BDP, according to the opposition should not be in power because it did not win the popular vote –m meaning that it did not get more than 50 percent of the votes cast.
Dow said it appears that the opposition only wants to employ the popular vote rhetoric where it suits them. She gave a number of examples of Members of Parliament who she said did not get the popular votes from constituencies where they contested. She further stressed that she got more votes than most of the Members of Parliament.
Dow gave examples of MPs Wynter Mmolotsi (5261 votes), Dithapelo keorapetse (4247), Haskins Nkaigwa (5738), Sedirwa Kgoroba (4180), Dr Tlamelo Mmatli (5 967), Noah Salakae (3999), Phenyo Butale (4601 votes), among others as examples of MPs who fail the popular vote test. She indicated that she got 6085 votes, a number significantly higher than ones achieved by the MPs she mentioned.
“Candidate to Candidate, I received more votes than any of these individuals – Candidate to candidate, I received a higher popular vote than any of these gentlemen did – by what right then are they sitting in this house?” Dow said if the popular should be the yardstick, then none of those with votes less than hers should be in the National Assembly. “But they are and they are entitled to be; because the electoral laws allow it. Perhaps the UDC wishes to change the law; if they do, I invite them to propose legislative amendments to the law,” she said.
According to Dow, only 27 of the 57 Members of Parliament got the popular vote. She cited the examples of Bagalatia Arone, Guma Moyo, Edwin Batshu, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Prince Maele, among others. She said only six of the UDC’s 17 Members of Parliament received the popular vote, and only one of the BCP’s three Members of Parliament received the popular vote.
“So the devilish dictatorship that Honourable Phenyo Butale is complaining about has served him well. He has not received the popular vote. He was voted by only 4601 people. The City of Gaborone has a population of 231 592. Assuming that a fifth are in Hon Butale’s constituency, there are 46 300 people in his constituency. Of these only 11 609 registered to vote. Of these 4601 sent him to Parliament. Mochudi West has about the same number of people, 46 500. Of those 6085 voted for me. That is 1484 more than those who voted Hon Phenyo Butale,” she said.
Dow encouraged the opposition to suggest legislative reforms so that no one enters the National Assembly without having achieved the “magical popular vote.”
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.