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POSITIVE LIVING FROM BIRTH

Keletso Thobega

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Tlotlo Lillian Moilwa is a 20-year old HIV/AIDS activist who has not allowed her status to define her. Moilwa advocates for young people living with HIV, and uses her own story in her activism.

During World AIDS Day commemorations in Mochudi in December, she delivered a moving speech that touched many including President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi and First Lady Neo Masisi.
They were seemingly touched by the young woman’s boldness and bravery and extended their support to her.

Moilwa is among thousands of young Batswana born between 1988 and 1998 who were born HIV positive. This is largely because during that period HIV was still new and there was more misinformation and programmes such as PMTCT, that stop HIV transmission of HIV from mother to child had not yet been rolled out.

The pretty and bubbly Moilwa, a student at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology lost her mother and father when she was six and eight years old respectively. At the time, little did she know what was really going on. It was only at ten years old that she realised what exactly was going on and her health status.

“One day I went through my medical records only to find ‘HIV transmitted from mother to child’ on it,” she recalls. She however says that she did not struggle to come to terms with her status.
“I did not imagine that I could be dying. I was fit and healthy and not on medication because I had kept my CD4 constant and viral load low. It was only when I was 16 that I went for tests and they indeed came back positive.

“My CD4 was at 306 and that is when I started taking medication,” she says. It was around this time that she reached out to other young people living with the virus. “I met a group of young people living with HIV and that is when I realised that many people are failing to accept their HIV status. I decided to come out with my status as a way of helping others accept their status,” she says.

She knew that there were possibilities of facing stigma so she prepared herself psychologically. “This made it easy for me to deal with stigma when I came across it.” One of the challenges she faced was at school because she had to regularly see a doctor and on her return she would have to explain to her teachers where she had been.

“It was difficult because at the time I was not ready to open up about my status.” Disclosing therefore helped her as she grew up and she did not need to constantly explain herself. Although she has come across discrimination and stigma, it did not hit her hard because she realised early that the more one openly speaks about an issue the more people accept it and get used to it.

The activist says that developments in HIV/AIDS treatment such as PrEP and U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable) are applaudable and can improve the lives of many people. She however notes that it is still equally important to be informed.

Moilwa urges everyone who is HIV positive to get rid of the mindset that HIV/AIDS kills. “Anyone who is HIV positive can lead a long and fruitful life if they adhere to their medication. “I am proud to say that I am HIV positive and living my best life. To those who are negative, I say, keep it that way; abstain or condomise.”

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Violence against LGBTI community is fuelled by some leaders – LEGABIBO

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Recent remarks made by some politicians present enough proof that violence and discrimination towards the lesbians, gays, bisexual, trans*diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community is fuelled by some community leaders.

These are the sentiments shared by Media Advocacy and Communications Officer for LEGABIBO Matlhogonolo Samsam following media reports that some politicians were against the recent decriminalisation of same sex relations. In a statement, the LEGABIBO officer expressed “grave disappointment in the disrespectful comments made by some of the political figures” as published in The Midweek Sun. In the article entitled: “Homophobic Leaders! – Opposition politicians don’t want gays, lesbians,”  Independent Parliamentary candidate in Gaborone Central, Jafta Radibe is quoted as saying that “homosexuality is not a Setswana culture and that the President of the Republic of Botswana owes the nation an explanation how he came to legalize same sex relations.”
Radibe had complained that President Mokgweetsi Masisi did not consult Batswana before legalising homosexuality, adding that homosexuality is not Setswana culture and that the president owes the nation an explanation how he came to legalise same sex relations.

“The Law didn’t go through Parliament. It went through backdoor. Batswana need to know how it came about,” he said, adding that Batswana are still shocked.According to Radibe, men should not sleep with other men. “When a man sleeps with another man, his anus gets loose and in the long term, he will have to wear diapers. O nna segole,” he said.The Parliamentary candidate had earlier expressed disgust at government on radio during parliamentary debates, saying legalising same sex relations was a huge mistake.

He still stuck by his words during the interview with The Midweek Sun that he is against homosexuality and is never going to change his stance on the matter.“Government should have just let gays do their things the way they have been doing it without any legal recognition. It doesn’t make any sense.“When a man sleeps with another man, where is reproduction in there? But again I hear some of them became gays because of the love of money,” he stated.His take is that any man who has feelings for another man needs help and counselling. He also believes that homosexuality is a spiritual attack and that gays initiate others into it.

The way he sees it, gays should seek deliverance from churches. “I know a lot of men that were once gay but have since stopped after being delivered. Now they love women too much,” he said.
Radibe is not the only one from the opposition who shuns gays. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) triplets Ford, Thaga and Mopedi also mocked homosexuals last weekend at Tshekedi Khama’s launch warning the MC that ‘if he voted for the BDP, he is going to marry another man.’ They would also point to another woman in the crowd, telling her she would be made to marry another woman should she vote for the BDP and Masisi.

Earlier this year, BPF President Biggie Butale also lamented that Botswana was turning into Sodom and Gomorrah because of legalising homosexuality.“My personal opinion is that we are on our way to Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s a terrible decision. We have opened a pandora box,” he told The Midweek Sun back then.His take was that the court ruling is going to open floodgates for other undesirable things such as gay marriages, gays adopting children and gay parades.However it remains to be seen what will happen next as the Attorney General has appealed the court ruling in the case against Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), which decriminalised same sex relations.

In response, Samsam notes that “sexual diversity has been with us since the beginning of time and one identifying as LGBTIQ is natural; what is not a part of our Setswana culture is hate, disrespect and exclusion of Batswana. Secondly, the decision made by the High Court of Botswana to decriminalise consensual same sex-sexual activities is a ruling which was made independent of the Botswana Government – the judiciary system of Botswana is independent and just. Mr Radibe claiming that ‘the law didn’t go through parliament and went through a backdoor’ undermines the legitimacy and independence of the Courts. The judiciary plays a vital role in ensuring that laws are followed and constitutional rights of all Batswana are protected.

“Community leaders need to acknowledge the diversity of our society and that all Batswana are entitled to enjoy their fundamental rights to Freedoms of Expression and Identity and the Rights to Liberty and Sexual Autonomy. Furthermore, by claiming that people “become gay because of the [their] love for money” and “that gays initiate others” is misleading and only contributes to the misconceptions about LGBTQ persons. There is no such thing as recruiting and initiating people into homosexuality. Lastly, religion is not to be used as a weapon of hate towards LGBTIQ individuals, but needs to be used to promote inclusion, love and Botho!

LEGABIBO wishes to caution political members to refrain from using the LGBTIQ community to decampaign other politicians, but rather one should be able to stand on their own merit, quality and worth. Politicians need to bear in mind the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and the respect for rule of law and refrain from making utterances that will compromise the safety and security of others.  A true democratic and progressive leader should promote non-discrimination, diversity, dignity and respect for other all Batswana. LEGABIBO encourages all Batswana to practice their democratic right to vote this coming elections.

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INSIDE PANDOR’S BOX

Keletso Thobega

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EYEING VICTORY: Shaffie Pandor is hopeful he will become victorious and become Lobatse MP

The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is deliberately being “driven to the ground” through privatisation to render it easy prey for some BDP “fatcats” and their cronies.

This is the contention of Shaffie Pandor, the Alliance for Progressives’ parliamentary candidate for Lobatse. He replaced Walter Sebate, who pulled out of the race two months ago to focus on a business project.  Pandor told The Midweek Sun that now that BMC was being privatised, there was need to audit the institution first. “BMC has a lot of land so if it is privatised where does this land go?” he asked before offering an opinion.

“We know that one of the reasons BMC was driven to the ground is because some “fatcats” including some BDP members and their cronies were eyeing the lucrative vast land owned by the company,” he said. Although BMC’s spokesperson Brian Dioka had not responded to our questions at press time, the beef parastatal has insisted in past comments that the company’s restructuring was motivated by market demands rather than politics. BDP’s secretary general Mpho Balopi was not immediately available Tuesday at press time either. Pandor, who is unfazed by his late campaign trail, said that he could not refuse when his comrades asked him to step in.

He is working closely with seven youthful AP council candidates.
Lobatse is one of the highly contested constituencies in the country. Former MP Nehemiah Modubule is fighting to regain his seat under the Botswana Movement for Democracy ticket.
Orapeleng Kakoma of UDC is promising fresh leadership, while Kamal Jacobs who lost the BDP primaries has resurfaced as an independent who curiously was recently launched by Botswana Patriotic Front patron Ian Khama.

It is a nail-biting race and the tallied results will have many on the edge of their seats when they are finally announced. But Pandor is confident that AP has what it takes to turn around Lobatse which has now been branded a “ghost town.” Economic revitalisation, he said, was vital and the fact that Lobatse is the oldest town in Botswana carries rich historical heritage which could be tapped into to create tourism returns. He also pointed out that shortage of water is a big and urgent problem in the town. He warned President Mokgweetsi Masisi not to touch the funds allocated to NS2 Master Water Project in Lobatse. “In the unfortunate event that Masisi takes power, he should not consider touching that money because it was set aside to improve water in Lobatse,” he said.

He added that many people in Lobatse still lived below the poverty line to the extent that many households still cannot afford to connect power in their homes. The 44-year-old is no political novice. He sits on the AP central committee. His political roots can be traced to Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).  He dumped the party in 2016 following the Bobonong fiasco. He said he decided to join the AP because it upholds values that resonate with his political ethics. Pandor comes from a political family. His mother is a councillor for BDP in Phitshane Molopo while his father is political activist and BNF stalwart Hussein Pandor, known as “Matlhola-adibona,” a popular call-in listener to local radio stations.

His father was close to the late Kenneth Koma. His late grandfather, Soleiman Pandor, was a business and political activist with close ties to South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC).
He passed away in the 1970s after failing to get medical assistance in SA because he was on the apartheid government’s list of prohibited immigrants. Pandor joked that in his family they have “planted politics in their backyard.” Despite being from different political camps, Pandor said they have learned to appreciate that they are individuals with different ideologies.

He learnt political tolerance from a young age as he lived with his uncle, the late Isho Abdul, who at one point was Member of Parliament for Lobatse. “From that young age I saw different politicians visiting our family such as the late Michael Tshipinare, Quett Masire and Khama among others. “Although my political ideologies changed as I grew older, that principle of political tolerance stuck with me,” he said.

Pandor was born in Kanye but raised in Lobatse and completed his schooling at Gaborone Secondary School. He did his Tirelo Sechaba in Sua Pan during which he fell in love with tourism and worked in the Delta for many years but his love for politics remained.
He has served as treasurer for BMD South East region and was once interim treasurer for BMD in Tlokweng.

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