Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) said the country’s current social security system is reactive, indirect and unsystematic. The remark follows President Mokgweetsi Masisi’ State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered at the opening of the second session of the 12th Parliament.
In his approximately three-hour national televised address, President Masisi underlined that the recently approved national Social Protection Framework (NDPF) will deliver a Single Registry System with the aim of consolidating and harmonizing the existing twenty nine Social Protection programs across government into five life course programs.
The consolidation will forge coherence and synergies between these programs to assist government in building a stronger, more responsive, efficient and resilient social protection system. BFTU has welcomed this development saying it will help the system that is already fragmented and hidden in various state expenditure.
“It is for this reason that we welcome the harmonization of the system. What we are not happy with is that this harmonization seems to be the sole baby of the government and those affected by social protection are left out. We have in the past and continue to hold the view that “nothing for us without us” principle must be observed if programmes meant to serve people are to properly respond to their needs,” said BFTU Secretary General, Thusang Butale.
President Masisi said in his address that the controversial Ipelegeng programme will be re-engineered with focus on maintenance of public facilities, especially schools and implementation of development projects at local level. He underlined that the revamped Ipelegeng will empower beneficiaries through capacity building and development of technical skills for sustained livelihoods.
“We appreciate the re-engineering of Ipelegeng programme. We believe that if what the President said will be done with the programme it will be more beneficial to Batswana than the current scheme,” Butale indicated. However, the Union criticized what they referred to as lack of consultation on this issue, which they believe should be discussed with social partners as it constitutes active-market policies.
“The President said nothing about when this envisaged re-engineering will take place. It will therefore not be possible to hold the President accountable if it would not be done by the next SONA,” said Butale. The President also touched on an issue of poverty eradication, saying it is one of government’s key policy deliverables.
In this context, Masisi said government has broadened the scope of measurement of poverty to include the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which measures non-income deprivation levels of the poor in the areas of education, health and living standards.
According to Masisi, as at July 2020, the Poverty Eradication programme had funded about 40, 000 projects and 80 percent of them were in operation and employ about 35,000 Batswana. However, BFTU said Masisi omitted to inform the nation about the costs of these projects.
“It is not clear whether these projects are new. It seems also that almost all the projects are single-employee projects. It is therefore impossible to gauge whether these are really successful projects or not. The President ought to have briefed the nation on the poverty situation and what government efforts have been and the level of success or failure and related challenges,” said Butale.
BFTU contends that Masisi said nothing positive on the acute housing problems facing Batswana especially in urban areas which is occasioned mainly by unavailability of land. “The President’s address offers no solution whatsoever to this problem. He alluded to the review of policies, but the timelines of March 2022 are absurd to say the least looking at the urgency of the housing matter,” he said.
“Land allocation has come to a standstill in most land boards. We had expected the President to apprise the nation on the problems the land boards are facing regarding land allocation and what solutions are being put in place to address the situation. It is not clear what the Land Reform Agenda is all about and how it will resolve the current land allocation backlogs.”
Further, BFTU indicated that the timelines are set afar. “In recent past, government embarked on the land Administration Procedures Capacity and Systems project. We expected that there will be a brief on its successes or failures and what government is doing about it. The President only managed a vague paragraph on the matter,” he said.
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.