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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 confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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