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.
â€˜â€™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.â€™â€™
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.
â€˜â€™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,â€™â€™ the report emphasized.
It further indicated that itâ€™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. â€˜â€™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.â€™â€™
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. â€˜â€™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.â€™â€™
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. â€˜â€™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. â€˜â€™Any space that has a lot of people brings fear. Allergic reactions, intolerant actions and sexual assault are also prominent fears of the community.â€™â€™
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.
â€˜â€™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.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.