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The Dalai Lama no show: Who is fooling who?



There is more than meets the eye in the way His Holiness Dalai Lama cancelled his controversial trip to Botswana – allegedly due to ill health. Contrary to the official version from Dalai Lama’s private office, The Midweek Sun can reveal that miles away from this country, the Tibetan spiritual leader is continuing to honour his tight schedule. Not only does this evoke many questions, but speculation as well.

Among these are whether there was double booking, or was the Dalai Lama’s change of heart influenced by the small number of tickets that were bought for his event. Only 100 people are said to have bought the tickets. While Dalai Lama’s followers bought tickets with the hope of physically meeting him, they had a shock of their lives on Saturday when a public statement from his private office allegedly sent to both President Lt. Gen. Dr Ian Khama and the Mind & Life Dialogue – organisers of the event – advised that he would no longer make the trip due to exhaustion.

But surprisingly, on Monday August 14, 2017 two days before he was set to arrive in Botswana in a trip that was vehemently opposed by the Chinese government, Dalai Lama, who looked healthy, took to the podium to deliver the inaugural address at the launch of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) course on Secular Ethics at the TISS Convention Centre in Mumbai, India. The previous day, he had addressed the Interfaith Dialogue in Mumbai, Maharashla, India at the National Sports Council of India Dome in an address that lasted for 34 minutes.

At TISS, he spoke for close to an hour before taking his seat to continue with taking questions on secular ethics from the floor. In between the two parts of his address, he received different types of appreciation tokens. Throughout the address by organisers and other speakers, Dalai Lama kept on tapping his hand on the seat, when he took to the podium, he was just his usual jolly self, cracking jokes and laughing. In his usual trade mark style, he took his time sufficiently answering all the questions from his audience.

In his cancellation message, Lama says: “I was very much looking forward to coming to Africa again and visiting your country. I was especially interested in taking part in discussions of Ubuntu, which I feel reflects my fundamental belief that we are all interdependent and need to conduct ourselves with a sense of universal responsibility. “Despite my absence, I am urging the conference organisers to continue with their plans, to hold valuable discussion and publish the results.” Examining African values and healing practices in light of new scientific research on social connection and trauma, the Mind & Life Dialogue in Botswana explores the potential of Botho/Ubuntu as a framework for healing the legacy and trauma of wars and colonialism, and advancing social justice and women’s equality.

The last minute cancellation has no doubt hit hard on personnel and organisations that were involved in organising his trip as they either had to cancel some events or offer refunds for those that had bought tickets. Mind & Life Dialogue noted that the conference will continue as planned, but stated that instructions for refunds will be provided directly to ticket holders by the email address that was used to register. Speaking to this publication, Donald Molosi BlueBlack Productions, who had arranged a private concert by veteran South African musician, Vusi Mahlasela for the 100 people who bought the tickets, said the concert has been cancelled and Mahlasela will just render a musical piece during the conference.Playing along Mahlasela was going to be local stars Tomeletso Sereetsi, Punah Gabasiane and Kabo Leburu. On why Dalai Lama is still continuing with his schedule while he is reported to have been asked to rest for health reasons, a statement issued by Ngodup Dorjee, a representative of Dalai Lama for Africa ,states that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to cancel visiting Gaborone, Botswana for the Mind & Life conference as in the past few weeks, he has found himself unusually tired in carrying out his activities and felt a strong need to take rest. “His physicians have also advised him to avoid undertaking long journeys for the next few weeks, however, it was agreed that he would finish his current programme in Mumbai, India and then return to Dharamsala for rest and recuperation.” In what is a blow to those who had hoped to at least hear from other prominent speakers, Graca Machel has also dropped out of being part of the Mind & Life conference. There was no official announcement from the organisers at the time of going to press. But on Monday night, Machel was removed from the official website.

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Gays, Lesbians look up to Masisi

Yvonne Mooka



Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-gender and intersex persons (LGBTI) want President Mokgweetsi Masisi to allow same sex relationships which to date, are deemed unlawful in Botswana.

Masisi had recently called for the respect and protection of LGBTI persons’ rights at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence on Women and Children last week. His utterances on the matter, enlisted words of praise and admiration from the LGBTI community would then pen him a letter of gratitude while also laying bare some of their nagging concerns.
“There are also many people of same-sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated. Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected,” Masisi stated at last week’s launch.

In their letter directed at the president, members of Lesbians Gays Bisexual of Botswana (LEGABIBO) thanked him for these words, saying they were thankful to his affirmation and mentioning of their ordeals and suffering. The president’s public acknowledgement of violations directed at members of this marginalised community, and his recognition of the discrimination and the resultant fear generated by all these, were particularly a source of inspiration to the concerned group.

These LEGABIBO members added that they are grateful to hear a sitting President speak openly and publicly on the need to protect those in same-sex relationships who have been violated.
“We are pleased that you named aloud the violence that members of our community suffer in their daily lives. We are writing this letter to encourage you to continue your efforts in ensuring that the human rights of all persons are upheld regardless of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

This is an example of good governance and respecting the rule of law,” says their letter. They further urged Masisi to raise expectations within Parliament for zero-tolerance of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, verbal or otherwise, urging his office further to make efforts to decriminalise consensual same-sex relationships, stating that Section 164 of the Penal code, which criminalises such relationships, fuels the violence, discrimination, suffering and fear.

“We are particularly interested in what you will do about this section of the law. Because this unjust law is the basis of violence directed at members of our community, your planned actions regarding this matter are of our primary and highest interest,” stated LEGABIBO. They also impressed upon the president to address the gender markers on their birth certificates, Omang and passports, adding that these markers were problematic and caused fellow citizens who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming to experience discrimination in all walks of life.
On related matters, they pleaded with the president to protect members of the LGBTI community from public violence and humiliation, citing a recent example where a transgender woman was attacked in Gaborone.

Religious leaders were neither spared as the concerned group also called on the president to protect members of their community against these religious leaders who fuel hatred towards them. “While we respect sincerely-held faiths in Botswana, we cannot condone those who preach inflammatory, discriminatory messages towards those who only seek to love members of the same sex,” says the letter, adding that the president should make a statement to all civil servants – teachers, healthcare workers, police and all service providers – that LGBTI people are citizens of this country, and like all other citizens, cannot be denied services available to the general public.

Members of the LGBTI community in Botswana say they are looking forward to Masisi’s leadership and a new approach to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. “In conclusion, Your Excellency, we ask you to make it clear to all politicians that members of the LGBTI community are not amused hearing that politicians who support our rights will lose elections; hearing that we are to blame for lack of rain; and hearing religious and cultural doctrines that seek to disempower us. However, like you, we are interested in open dialogue to promote the human rights of LGBTI,” states the letter.

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AP’s varsity don enters lion’s den



Senior Lecturer at the University Botswana (UB), Dr Kaelo Molefhe wants to represent the people of Gaborone Bonnington North constituency in Parliament from 2019, and he is convinced he will prevail over the formidable political trio of Duma Boko, Robert Masitara and Anna Motlhagodi.

It is an open secret now, that the constituency will see a fierce battle involving the Alliance for Progressives (AP) represented by Molefhe, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) represented by Boko, Motlhagodi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as well a Masista who has indicated that he will be in the race as an Independent Candidate. Although he claims to be unperturbed by the collective political prowess of the other trio, Molefhe still faces a mammoth task of not only ousting incumbent MP Boko who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament, but also has to convince the people of the affluent constituency that his new party is an entity they can trust with their lives.

Add to that the popularity of the other two contestants. The BDP’s Motlhagodi is an already established politician in the area, having been there and garnering thousands of votes in the area as a candidate of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) from which she has since defected. On the other hand, Masitara has been the area MP, having been voted into the constituency between 2009 and 2014. Although he could not win against Boko in 2014, he was still voted by close to 5000 people. Thus Molefhe will be seen as a minnow – an underdog hoping to do the Donald Trump against the more popular figures of this race. US president Donald Trump was seen as a minnow and was given no chance against Hilary Clinton in that country’s last elections, and Molefhe has such David and Goliath stories to take solace in.

But the constituency itself has a plethora of problems waiting to be unravelled. With a population of 45 688, Gaborone Bonnington North is made up of six (6) wards – Boseja, Diphetogo, Moselewapula, Tlogatloga, Itumeleng and Bosele. A simple random survey conducted in the constituency showed that sections of the community are already unhappy that no Member of Parliament has been able to salvage them from the myriad of issues they have to deal with everyday. They neither had any flattering words for the incumbent, a powerful politician in his own right, thus casting aspersion on whether the new entrant will inspire better confidence. “We really do not know our MP.

The last time we saw him was when he was campaigning for the 2014 General Elections,” lamented a resident, who went on to catalogue their concerns in the constituency. “We do not have a government primary school in this area and are forced to send our children to far-away places like Mogoditshane, which is expensive,” said the resident, pointing also to the dangers posed by bushes in the area, which are a breeding ground for crime, saying they need to be urgently cleared.

Speaking with The Midweek Sun, the AP’s parliamentary candidate, Molefhe, said he was alive to the challenges the residents grapple with, adding that it was the gaping hole of no political action in the area that inspired him to want to go to Parliament to help address the situation. With his uppermost priorities centred around education, especially investing in the youth, he aims to tackle the absence of government primary schools in Blocks 6 and 7 so that children in the constituency can enjoy unfettered access to education.

Molefhe also pledged to address the scourge of drugs and alcohol abuse as well as youth unemployment, which he says have reached crisis proportions in Gaborone West Phase 2. “Among other things, we need to come up with short-term training that will equip the youths of the area with skills,” he quipped. He has in mind equipping youth with practical skills to be able to perform small jobs like fixings electrical faults and refrigeration repairs among other essentialities, which are commonly done by expatriates.

He said AP considers the youth as the key components in the improvement of the country hence, “we need to prioritise and invest wholly in them.” Repeated efforts to reach the other three (3) candidates proved futile as their mobile phones went unanswered, and they could not respond to text messages sent to them.

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