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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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BR train 0501/BD 540 would not have derailed on 10 December 2019 had necessary precautions been taken, Botswana Railways (BR) staff members told the ongoing commission of inquiry in Mahalapye.

They blame the fatal accident in which two BR employees were killed on a raft of lapses, indecisions and negligence on the part of BR management. BR Senior Traffic Controller Simon Matenje revealed that there is a WhatsApp group that discusses everything concerning the running of BR trains. He said meteorological services had posted a memo warning that there would be floods on 4th December and shared it on the WhatsApp group. “The contents of the memo and their implications were discussed,” said Matenje who revealed that the group comprises most of the senior personnel in the BR hierarchy.

He lamented that although read and discussed the contents of the memo were “not given due attention.” Above that, on 9th and 10th December many BR staff members using the south bound and north bound trains warned relevant authorities about the possibility of floods, said Matenje. He believes there was negligence of duty on the part of management because everybody was aware of the floods at Moreomabele and Palla Road. “The relevant office should have directed stoppage of the trains or the adoption of an appropriate speed limit. “The best that management did was to give warnings about the floods but fell short of prescribing a solution,” he said. Matenje, who was on leave, said that he communicated his concerns about the reports of flooding and possible solutions to no avail.

When asked who exactly had the authority to do that, Matenje explained that it was the Operation’s Manager. Matenje also decried the lapses in the organisation’s system. He said motor trollies are helpful when inspecting the railway line. “However, they have not featured for a long time,” said Matenje who feels that regular inspection of the rail is a very critical part of safety. He said BR has not held any safety workshops in a long time. Mompoloki Rutherford, a train driver also appearing before the commission conceded that trollies had not been used on the BR lines for a long time. He said some senior managers use the train to inspect the line instead of trollies. “There are only two seats in the cabin but, contrary to safety rules, sometimes they just join us in the cabin which is a breach of the safety rules,” said Rutherford. Dikabelo Nawa, a retired train driver noted that BR workers were a sad lot because of pressure always exerted on them by management.

“Drivers work under pressure. The line between Mafikeng and Plumtree is old and very bad but we were always pushed by management to arrive on time. “There is just too much pressure. I once lost time and that put me into a big problem.” He said. He is also unhappy with the undergrowth and hanging branches next to the line because they obstruct the view of the crew. He appealed to the panel to recommend the introduction of a training centre for BR staff.

Peter Mokokwe, a recently retired train driver also complained that the rail road is never inspected. In addition to that, he told the commission that, he witnessed water around Palla Road on 9th December at the same place where the derailment later took place. Mokokwe, who himself did not alert control room about the water because he had heard through radio communication that his colleagues had reported the situation to control room, is also of the view that the disaster could have been averted had the 501 crew been alerted of the water situation.

On the other hand, a train controller named Moses Sethomo says he never got the communique warning the drivers about the impending floods. “There was a clear breakdown of communication,” said Sethomo who revealed that very often, even BR assets are wrongly used. “For example, sometimes freight locomotives instead of passenger train locomotives are used to haul the passenger train and this is a safety concern,” he noted. The hearings are continuing this week. The rail services that were suspended have since been resumed.

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Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments

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Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.

Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.

He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.

“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.

“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.

“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.

Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”

She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.

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