Remember in 2016 when the whole country nearly came to a standstill, outraged at the Facebook messenger communication between the Sebina Member of Parliamnet and a Councillor from his area? We were livid, and you could not put a cap on us.
Well, I am wondering if the reason the Sebina saga was such a huge deal is because there was communication in there, to the effect that Batswana ba lebala ka pele, more than the fact that a political leader was said to have molested a child, and another leader helped him conceal it, and comforted him, reminding him that we actually forget.
We are clearly still the nation that protects the uncles and grandfathers and older brothers and cousins who molest the child, because they are the breadwinners. We are also still the nation who protects perpetrators because their implication in child sexual molestation incidences, or rape would bring shame to the family.
It is true of us, as a people, that we avoid speaking of a child we failed and neglected to protect, because perhaps we are more ashamed of what that means for the child socially? Who wants to be with a woman who was defiled at a young age?. It’s a pathetic state of being, we find ourselves in. However, it is one we must acknowledge. We are a safe haven for perpetrators, particularly those in leadership.
On 9 August 2019, as part of rebutting a propaganda campaign, Minister Makgato made the following utterances, as recorded and published on the Mmegi online page:
“My time will come to speak out! My time will come to speak out! Le ba eleng gore gone yaana, o mongwe o na le kgang ya rape ya ngwananyana ee hithilweng…I know these things. My time will come! Bring the Commission of Enquiry. That is where I will speak.” The minister literally publicly shared that she has information on a crime that has been committed against a child, but that she will reveal it at a time of her choosing. Because of the context of her statement, it would not be amiss to assume that the perpetrator she speaks of is a political figure or some other person of significant political influence or clout.
Section 25 of the Children’s Act provides that a child has “a right to be protected from sexual abuse and exploitation…” It further provides, at section 25(2) that “any…person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to report a case of child abuse or exploitation of which he or she is aware shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine…or to imprisonment.” The Children’s Act is an Act developed to protect the rights of children in Botswana.
The aforewritten section is specifically drafted for the protection of children’s right to protection. One can read too that the protection is against violence, as children are at a significantly greater risk
The rights of a child are critical, and should be engaged with sensitively. A society socialises children, influencing how they conduct themselves, and how they interact with themselves, and others. A society that, by it’s silence, places greater emphasis in the politicisation of a crime committed against a child is a society that is sick.
There is a child, who has been sexually abused, and the Minister says she knows the perpetrator. The Minister, like those she seeks to dissociate herself from, is actually only protecting the perpetrator, by failing to report the case in accordance with the Children’s Act, particularly knowing that there are active efforts to conceal the matter, as she implies.
The Minister continues to fail to protect the child, by waiting for a commission or her time. This should cause us the greatest anxiety: that our leaders continue to lead us, while harbouring information about child molesters which they may never release.
Botswana, it would seem, accepts things easily. We get charged up and we actively take to the clicks, until our attention is drawn to something else. Our country’s the best place to hide in plain site, it seems.
In the Sebina saga, the case died down because the young girl was discovered to not have been 16years old at the time the sexual intercourse that resulted in her pregnancy ensued. There was silence about the ways in which having the child would adversely affect her right to accessing education.
We know very well that having dropped out of school for pregnancy, re-enrolment policies are really only illusory. Her right to leisure and recreation would also naturally be limited. The greater focus, however, was on the fact that she could consent to sexual intercourse. In considering evolving capacities, it is important that beyond the question of age of consent, power dynamics, related to age and masculinity be subjected to scrutiny – a wholistic approach.
These cases are not in isolation. There are many other cases that our society is silent about, teaching the next generation, this same silence; letting them know that violences against women are only worth bringing up as threats for the petty politics that play the person instead of fixing the system.
The Councillor in the Sebina was not called on to resign. Minister Makgato’s colleagues have not called her out for her collusion to protecting a perpetrator. So maybe we have forgotten. Winnie Mandela was right, “men dominate women through the agency of women themselves.”