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Being gay in Francistown is mentally taxing

A cohort of young Trans, gender non-conforming and lesbian individuals based in Francistown were engaged to better understand their lived experiences in the second capital city. In their report, they provided an overview of the unique experiences in relation to belonging and becoming in a region that is underserved, under-resourced and far from the decision making structures in government and civil society.

Over the years of engagement, the cohorts have observed and yearned to formalize themselves. This led to the creation aimed at serving the best interests of gender diverse youth in Botswana. FrancisTrans as an organized group is politically feminist and future thinking in challenging gender norms and safeguarding rights within the municipal and surrounding regions. It was established to empower the individual and supporting those who are hurt.

Francistown is the second largest city in the country that remains underserved due to limited capacity among LGBT led organizations based in the capital city. There is high prevalence of sexual and physical abuse, exasperated by poverty and exclusion in societal, cultural and policy engagements. Although there are pockets of inclusion in mainstream LGBT programming, there remain shortcomings in non-binary and gender non-conforming representation and servicing.

According to Transpose report, men who have sex with men MSM funding landscape within the HIV response reflects an overall neglect of gender diverse provisions inn civil society interventions. Where visibility and voice exists, it is anchored on those with institutional backing, resources and privilege.

‘’These leaves the prevalent public discourse to gender marker changes within strategic litigation work and select issues around mental health. Francistown remains a focus for purposes of the documenting of these experiences. This is intentional in increasing awareness and narratives outside Gaborone.’’

The report underlined that Francistown, or Ghetto as notably called, is not safe or enabling environment for LGBTIQ person in general. Many are reminded that they do not belong in the world. Civil society efforts remain focused on Gaborone, leaving many queer individuals in other regions feeling neglected. This could reflect why society is perceived comparably more ignorant in Francistown than in Gaborone, the report said.

There has been some awareness and change in perceptions over the recent years. This attributed to the increase in information on LGBTIQ. Although allies would be considered an influence, they are perceived a threat to the community. There are many other threats that impede how individuals can freely express themselves, work, and love or simply exist, the report alleged.

Furthermore, the report stressed that gender norms and patriarchy continue to anchor perspectives against gender diverse individuals. Narratives perpetuated in society are on correcting the sexual orientation of lesbian women, which often more masculine women and transgender men are included.

‘’This reflects the high level of ignorance in the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity- even gender expression. This is not exclusive to the LGBTIQ community as subgroups also tend to assume negatively of gender diverse individuals. There is often assumption of confusion and phobia around understanding gender diverse individuals and their relationships,’’ the report emphasized.

It further indicated that it’s common to find a lesbian woman in a relationship with a transgender man, some characterized by ignorance, self-hate and habitual incorrect use of pronouns. Similarly in lesbian relationships, where affirmative use of pronouns is not congruent with gender identity.

Society in Francistown is perceived as rude, the report said. ‘’There are persistent comments when one is in public where non-conforming individuals are often sexualized. Commentary includes inquiries on how community members have sex and that all LGBTIQ are homosexual. This reflects high levels of ignorance on gender diversity and expression. Discrimination is prevalent in any public or private space. This includes restaurants, homes and customary courts.’’

Having to move around for work, school, running errands or simply meeting friends can be mentally taxing in Francistown, the report added. Particularly when one has to use public transport and might end up at the station to connect to another town. There are high risks of violence, hate speech and petty crime. These are not exclusive to sexual or gender diverse individuals, but also women. However, it is further exasperated when one is non-conforming in dress or expression.

The report also stated that the most notable societal space where discrimination is minimal is in tertiary institutions. ‘’There is a contrast to high schools experiences through, as there is no sense of belonging where you are gender diverse. This often adds to the difficulty of navigating peer pressure, societal expectations and pressure to excel in academics. Traditional classroom set ups are a challenge.

Teachers do not want to be questioned. Syllabi is considered dated and narrow, especially around sex education. It is a component of Moral Education as a subject, which by design is viewed as problematic. Historically, there was a public outcry around issues of sexuality and had some aspects of diversity removed from the curricular.’’

Transpose report also underlined that gender diverse or expressive individuals find it difficult to walk in public with their partners. It shared that vulnerabilities are exposed when in public transport; where stigma is pervasive, invasive and prevalent. Instances of physical harassment occur randomly, particularly when one tries to either respond or retaliate to hate speech or discrimination. ‘’Some have been attacked whilst using public transport. They are normally targeted where they stop. This is not exclusive to Francistown, but in Tati Siding, Kasane and Tonota.

In Kasane one was threatened with rape after rude advances were made by a man. Other instances have resulted in transgender individuals being undressed in public. The report further said many experiences shared how the way they dress often incites commentary and inquiry. This is often met with curt responses from gender diverse individuals, the report added.

Gender diverse individuals in Francistown are in constant fear, the report further said. The fear of losing someone loved, being caught by police under any circumstance, ending up in a physical altercation or being discriminated against. ‘’Any space that has a lot of people brings fear. Allergic reactions, intolerant actions and sexual assault are also prominent fears of the community.’’

Money is critical to survival, and the lack of incentives in some jobs or business ideas make it difficult for one to have a dignified life. The report noted that lack of money often results in depression and at times, unlawful means of acquiring it. In some instances, this includes sex work or transactional sex. For others it provides a basis for confidence to navigate society and public life.

Civil society practitioners and health officers have been hostile to community members, the report said. It also said this could reflect why public health facilities are not safe for gender diverse individuals. They remain a challenge for one to present their issues comfortably and without restrictions.

‘’There are fears of being judged, mistreated and ridiculed. This is based on previous unfavorable experiences where health professionals were perceived to not exercise confidentiality or care during consultation. One of the main reasons identified through sensitization workshops is because of a high level of ignorance.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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