The recent pronouncement by honourable judge Tebogo Rannowane for the government to register and recognise Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGAGIBO) deserves applause. Surely Botswana as a country needs progressive people like him who uphold the constitution and the rights of all citizens.
Traditional ideologies that do not reflect democratic and progressive credentials cannot be used as a veil to perpetuate transgression of people’s rights and stifle the principles of democracy. All concerned citizens must join in to break the myth about homosexuality and any other acts that are contrary to democracy. It is on this backdrop that I am compelled to pen down this article to further articulate on the issue of same sex.
The question of ‘unnaturalness’ of homosexuality in our contemporary society, not just in Botswana raises the question of what exactly we mean by nature. Globally countries are grappling with whether to legalise homosexuality or continue persecuting those who subscribe to it.
Mind you dear reader, I do not claim to be an expert in this field, but rather just inviting your thoughts on the issue. We really need to take time and ponder about issues of this nature openly and logically without necessarily being emotional about it; by the way it is not yet illegal to think.
Experts on this field avers that what is natural implies anything that is in conformity with the descriptive laws of nature or rather that which man has not imposed his will and tamper with its original actuality. My petite comprehension of the concept suggests am not far from the truth.
The gripe then is where really some moralist and theologians contend that homosexuality is against the law of nature. Which nature do they lay claim to for their judgement or objection to homosexuality? I still need to be convinced as to how homosexual activities violate the laws of nature. Prescriptive laws of nature which in most instances moralist and theologians base their objections on are merely from human laws and have nothing to do with what is perceived natural.
Some aspects of our constitution need to be applauded for the liberal democratic dispensation that is reflected in it. Comparatively, it beats some of our African sister countries hands down, no doubts. A glance at it indicates that it has enshrined and embraced the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of each individual to enjoy. Furthermore, it has articulated the individual fundamental freedom of conscience, expression, assembly and association.
Contrary to constitutional aspirations, the issue of sexuality and sexual orientation still seems to be relegated to the lowest echelons of the constitutional ladder. It seems the constitution in forbidding some sexual acts specifically homosexuality, the legislators have also relied on prescriptive nature. In this case they are interested in governing and describing human behaviour rather than prescribing what it should be like.
The question that lingers is whether it caters for those who are more inclined to homosexuality. Are we a society that shuns those who happen to be more inclined to homosexuality even when sexual orientation is embraced in the constitution? The notion that homosexuality goes against nature cannot be used as a moral weighting. Is there anything wrong with going against nature? The claim by human beings that we are more developed and techno sophisticated is our ability to manipulate and tamper with what is natural. Is there anything wrong with that, obviously no since it makes life more bearable and happy.
A lot of people will agree with me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that since we seem to be gratified in man-made habitat and all that is at our disposal is artificial e.g. houses, clothes, cell phones, money you name it all they fulfil our lives. Are we then not being hypocrites to deny homosexuals the liberty to express their sexuality on the pretext of ‘unnaturalness’ whereas heterosexual community finds nothing wrong in accessing artificial amenities. This is a mere reflection of a double pronged principles that our society find solace in to castigate homosexuality.
Are we ever going to achieve one of the vision 2016 pillars which advocates for a caring and tolerant nation? Attitudinal or a complete paradigm shift is inevitable for this to be realised lest this remains an unattainable dream. Our reactions to homosexuality as a society reflect our intolerance for a divergent sexual orientation. What happened to the idea of uniqueness or do we limit its understanding where it suits us most?
During his 2010 and 2011 interview with the British Broadcasting Company, former Botswana President Festus Mogae spoke out strongly against sexual discrimination. His observation could not be far from the truth that preconception was dissuading determinations to combat HIV in a country where one in four adults is presumed to have the disease.
"We do not want to discriminate. Our HIV message applies to everybody. If we are fighting stigma associated with sex, let's apply it to sexual discrimination in general." Simply put being an open and more progressive society would enable us to accept and even amend laws that are unfavourable to those who indulge in so called ‘unnatural sexual activities’.
Ministry of Health recently released a report which associated the rampant spread of HIV with homosexual behaviour. Since this has been acknowledged by all stakeholders there is no question about the route to be pursued, but for the legislators to go back to the drawing board and make accommodative laws for bisexuals and homosexuals.
The interrogation remains if we are going to continue living in denial as a nation and risking more spread of the virus under the façade of ‘unnatural behaviour’. Are we then as a society using issues of ‘unnatural acts’ given our malnourished understanding of the concept to chastise those with different sexual inclination contrary to heterosexual?
Unnatural acts are but societal perceptions that chose to believe in a fallacy that God had ordained heterosexual. Let us have a moment and just think about it. By engaging in heterosexual activities, are we implying that gays and lesbians are engaging in something unnatural? Is this not some sort of imposed morality of traditional theologians and legislators on those who do not subscribe to their ideologies and values?
Who are we to judge and dictate how they engage in their private life. Situation Ethics advance that we ought to look at individual situation and our judgement of their actions must be premised on what love dictates for them. By breaking any conventional rule along the way does not in any way reflect immorality on their actions since it is their privacy and they derive happiness from that.
Socially constructed ideas must not hamper our endeavour to progress in every aspect of life including even how we conduct ourselves sexually. To remain a truly shining example of democracy in Africa, there is need for individuals to liberate themselves from bondage of ignorance.
A complete overhaul of our mind-set should reflect a society willing to change its attitude and embrace principles of democracy. Emancipation from the traditional dogma takes a willing, progressive and an open minded society to catapult it forward. Nurturing true democracy is a meandering and labouring journey that takes time and perseverance therefore let us all soldier on and build a truly all rounded democratic nation.
How ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’ of me to ask for a more open minded and democratic society?
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”