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‘Homosexuality is unAfrican’

Keletso Thobega

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The homosexual debate is a contentious issue that often leaves tempers flaring. And this was the case at the Gaborone High Court last week when a bench of three judges Abednego Tafa, Jennifer Dube and Micheal Leburu, listened to arguments in the landmark case as the gay community continues to fight for national recognition and for Botswana government to revise the Constitution and decriminalise section 164 and 167, which refers to same-sex as unnatural sexual acts.

Advocacy group LEGAGIBO with the support of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre is challenging Botswana laws on homosexuality. Advocate Sydney Pilane is representing Attorney General in the matter. After arriving late in court from an earlier engagement at Lobatse High Court, Pilane stirred controversy when he argued that homosexuality is unAfrican and does not correlate with the traditional values of Batswana. “As things stand, Botswana is being forced to abandon its moral values. The courts should be conservative and measured,” he said. He also said that there was also no substantial evidence to indicate that Batswana’s views on homosexuality had softened in the past years.

He cited the Kanane case of 2004 before the Court of Appeal, which indicated that Batswana were hardened against acceptance and tolerance of homosexuals, adding that Penal Code provisions could be revisited when the time was right. He argued that there is no substantial evidence to back claims that Batswana’s attitudes towards homosexuality have changed, and that there is also no evidence that gays have been discriminated against. Pilane, who had a tongue-in-cheek demeanour, asked what was so important about ‘sex’ that homosexuals could “not do it” without upsetting the laws, saying that they were conducting their affairs behind closed doors anyways.

Pilane, who appeared to find humour in the proceedings, also claimed that gays in Botswana were not harassed like in other countries and wondered if people should rush to courts for every small gripe. Much to the amusement of the audience, he illustrated that people had mocked him about the size of his head since he was a kid and even in adulthood, to the extent that some created social media memes out of him but he did not cry about it. He also stated that gays would still get HIV and not use condoms even if homosexuality was decriminalised, in reference to a Ministry of Health report that stipulated that gays did not receive access to open health care since homosexuality is illegal. Pilane further wondered whether legalising homosexuality indicated to the public that there was room to change the law to accommodate “unnatural behaviour,” rhetorically asking: “Should those who partake in bestiality (sleep with animals) also come here and demand that laws be changed to accommodate them?”

Tshiamo Rantao, representing LEGAGIBO shot down Pilane’s arguments and said that he (Pilane) was peddling his own personal views. Rantao said the AG failed to prove that there is no evidence to repeal the law. Rantao made reference to the Rammonge case and the Yogyakarta Principles, arguing that sexual orientation is a matter of feelings and not choice. He argued that there is overwhelming research that there is widespread violence against homosexuals in Botswana. Rantao said that the question should be what the law is doing in people’s bedrooms to the extent that it defines what is an acceptable or unnatural sexual act.

Meanwhile, Gosego Lekgowe, also representing LEGAGIBO noted that there should be determination of whether Section 164 violates Constitutional provisions, adding that government should ascertain what the crime is about being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. He noted that the right to dignity and privacy are rights that the Court must consider, as they are fundamental to the case, adding that there is a need to protect homosexuals, who are a prejudiced minority.

In May last year, a gay man filed a petition with the Gaborone High Court, arguing that sections 164 and 167 are unconstitutional and impede on gay rights, their access to appropriate health care, and social security. Judgment in the matter will be handed down on 11 June 2019.

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He was shot!

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The family of Rakops Chief Letang Segaise is convinced that high-ranking officials are behind his gruesome murder.The family has vowed that it will not rest until justice is served. Segaise was laid to rest last week after his burnt body and car were found in the bush a few kilometres away from the village.

The chief had been missing for more than 40 days. “Of course we know who is responsible (for the heinous crime) it’s just that we do not have enough evidence to prove it but this was a well-orchestrated plan by big names with flourishing bank accounts,” said an angry family member who preferred anonymity.They believe that the killer is well prepared and has covered his or her tracks well to reduce chances of ever getting caught.

They say people were hired to do the dirty job and that the “big guns” behind the murder are watching quietly from high places while “we waste our breath screaming for justice.”
This week Segaise’s family accused the government system of failing them. A member told The Midweek Sun that they have long asked the Police to grant them permission to go on a peaceful protest against ritual killings in the village but are being sent from pillar to post.

They said they went to the police for the permit only to be told that they should seek help from the District Commissioner, who allegedly sent them back to Police.Rakops station commander Thito Freeman said he advised the woman who called him that they have never heard of a family wanting to demonstrate because they would not know how to classify them.

“Permits are obtained here and it is normally organisations or unions but a family is a first and I do not know where to place them in the eyes of the law,” he said.vThe family member said the family is now scared to publicly air their opinions because it is proving extremely hard to reason with the government. “How can we reason with them when they do not want to listen, we are nobodies to think we can take on the mighty government.

“They will easily squash us and airing our views here on newspapers is angering them,” they said. The family shared that they have received a half baked report that indicates that Segaise was shot with a gun on his left ribcage. They suspect that the criminals who killed their father were aiming for his heart. The family is now struggling to come to terms with what happened to one of their own, whom they described as a departed hero, The family member said acts of people disappearing without a trace in the village have become commonplace, but nothing is being done about them.
It is for these reasons that they wish to unite the community with a peaceful demonstration.

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‘I have lost a pillar’

Yvonne Mooka

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HAPPIER TIMES: The late Roda with Rorisang

Rorisang Matlhaku – boyfriend to the late Rodah Putsini Kegontse – says she was an ever-smiling girl who loved giving people advice and was always there for them whenever they were experiencing challenges.

Kegontse, 19, took her own life two days after Independence holidays inside Matlhaku’s house in Ramotswa. In an interview with The Midweek Sun this week, he narrated the painful ordeal.
“She had travelled to her home village of Kanye for Independence. She surprised me by coming back to me after two days.

“There was an entertainment event which we both attended with friends,” he said. Around midnight, she asked to be dropped off at Matlhaku’s house, where he said he would join her a bit later.
Matlhaku stated that around 2am, he asked his younger sister who was with him at the event, to go and drop him off at his place. “As I passed by the bathroom, I noticed the bathtub was full of water and I thought my girlfriend had probably just finished bathing.

“When I entered the bedroom, I saw her lifeless body hanging inside the wardrobe and I quickly called my sister to drive back to my place,” he said. Matlhaku, 27, said that she had no clue what could have led his girlfriend to take her own life as she was likeable and jovial. “She was the most loving person I had ever met. She put me first before everything. When I asked her why at that age she loved me that much, she would say it was embedded in her. She even quit alcohol saying it wasn’t right that she was drinking while I wasn’t,” he said,

He said they started dating this year March. But again, he said Kegontse exhibited signs of depression. She would tell him that she used to burst into tears while in class while at secondary school becaue she felt at the time that her spirit was not well or that nobody liked her.

“She felt she wasn’t beautiful enough, that she was worthless and that people were always mocking her about her weight loss, but I always assured her that I loved her with my whole heart,” he said.
He described her as a simple person and a God-fearing young woman. “Whenever I came to her with my problems, she would advise me like a mature person, leaving me feeling better.

“She even joked that I should pay her because I had turned her into my business advisor. She used to call me every morning saying I should wake up and go and work for Basmati rice and not pap, saying we should aim higher and work for expensive things. She was my pillar,” said the man who runs a horticulture business.
Kegontse was buried this past Saturday in Kanye.

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