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A reflection on the petition for Majaga to step down- an attempt to dismantle the master's house

LESEGO NSWAHU NCHUNGA
On the afternoon of the September 9, 2020 Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang of the UDC read a petition to parliament, on behalf of the Botswana Child Rights Network.

The petition included recommendations that Polson Majaga, Member of Parliament for Nata-Gweta having been accused of defilement, ought to take leave of absence from his parliamentary duties, until the matter against him has been concluded.

 The petition further suggested that parliament commit to codifying standard conduct of behaviors by Members of Parliament, and ensure statutory suspension of all members who are criminally charged with exploitation of children and commission of gender-based violence.

A well informed submission was made to parliament, indicating that the Network appreciated that in terms of criminal justice system, Majaga is indeed innocent until proven guilty; however, it is not unusual that where an individual has a trial or even an investigation against them, they are excused from work until they have their house in order.

This petition was, in my opinion, very critical and had the potential, if it were properly engaged with, to clearly articulate Parliament’s position on defilers and perpetrators of abuse.

The Speaker of the house, seeing it as such, extended the position and publicly observed that the problem had to do with the leadership of the country, taking a stand, against party lines, and ensuring the prioritisation of protection of children.

One could say that was one of the successes of the petition.

Another real success was that civil society, comprising over 30 organisations in Botswana, clearly articulating the position that we will no longer, as a nation, accept leadership which is made up of defilers and rape apologists.

In fact, Dumelang Saleshando, leader of the opposition tried to guide his colleagues accordingly informing them that defending Majaga was in fact defending the crime he is said to have committed.

Unfortunately, the Network’s petition also unearthed the realities of our democracies in a way that I am not sure the Network was prepared for.

The matter became a debate between political parties, seemingly in a way to adequately articulate which party swings the lowest blows, and which has the most outspoken apologists.

During the deliberations on the petition, Member of Parliament for Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse repeatedly made an effort to distance the leading opposition party from the petition, stating that he believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Dishearteningly, the Minister of Gender and the Minister of Local Government, under whose mandate issues of sexual predation fall, remained loudly silent.

 The ruling party side of the house was adamant that the discussion should be silent about Majaga and speak instead, more broadly (read vaguely) about accountability.

This makes apparent the root of the culture of protecting the perverted uncle or cousin or brother, in order to save face at family  community level. If at

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the highest level of leadership, those in charge of the nation distance themselves from accountability and prefer to shield the alleged defiler, it makes it clear that the war against sexually pervasive crimes will not be won at that level – at the level of an institution which protects alleged perpetrators.

I think though, that the greatest shock and perhaps grandest gesture that our leaders could not care less about being allied with people associated with defilement, may have been the President’s visit on the 10th September 2020, to Nata-Gweta, where he spent the day with Polson Majaga, a day after the petition, as if in an effort to let him know he is supported.

Interestingly, this was also not the first time that a consideration of this kind was brought to Parliament.

In 2017 when the Code of Conduct was considered, in the context of the development of a sex offenders registry, our current president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who was, at the time a Vice President, went further to suggest that not only should there be a Code of Conduct, but that even the Electoral Act should be considered for amendment, to ensure that there should be no people in the house, accused of sexual predation.

What is interesting, in my opinion, is that our President is now happy to mingle and break bread with those accused of one of the most pervasive crimes which exists.

You see, I agree that the problem is more than just Majaga. I don’t agree that we should therefore not address Majaga. Like the Network, I think this was a missed opportunity for our nation’s leadership, to have taken a solid stand on the issue, and showing the commitments they have repeatedly made to “protect” children.

They were merely requested to encourage their colleague to let go of his power until the matter against him is concluded at Court! If they are all so confident of his innocence, and if they trust the justice system to the extent that they say they do, this request would neither have been trivialised nor treated as if it was unreasonable.

They would have encouraged their brother to do what is right. However, their behavior is illustrative of their non-commitment to the protection of children and the repeated promises they make, and their hunger, instead, for power at whatever cost.

Audrey Lorde argues that the masters house cannot be dismantled with the master’s tools.

Perversion cannot be undone by those who protect it. I wonder though, if we are, as we should be, taking a close look, at who is creating the monsters that live around us!



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