With only two months left before the World Chess Federation (FIDE) elections, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) is yet to decide whom to entrust with the presidential hot seat.According to BCF president Mothokomedi Thabano, Botswana has not reached a decision on who to vote for ahead of the FIDE elections. The FIDE election which are expected to attract 185 affiliated countries will be on 3 October 2018 in Batumi, Georgia.
In an interview this week, Thabano said the BCF prefers a leader that will be able to push FIDE mandate. “Whoever assumes the positions should able to develop the board game, both locally and on a globally context,” Thabano said. “The ideal president should be ready to treat all equally and have the best interests of Africa at heart. He or she should be well informed about chess activities and ready to react whenever approached for assistance.” One of the reasons Thabano gave for being undecided at this stage is that none of the contesting candidates had made contact with BCF so far. The FIDE presidential candidates include veteran chess player Grand Master (GM) Nigel Short, FIDE Deputy president
Georgios Makropoulos and Russian Deputy Prime Minister from 2012 to 2018 also currently
head of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee Arkady Dvorkovich. Meanwhile, reports coming in from across boarders suggest that the incumbent FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov recently decided to pull out of the race. Illyumzhinov has been at the helm of the international chess body since 1995 and coming into the 2018 elections, he had shown interest of seeking yet another four -year term. However, recent reports have implicated the incumbent in career threatening controversy. The long time serving president was said to be under sanctions from USA and at one point he was advised to resign by the FIDE board to which he refused.
Nevertheless, Ilyumzhinov’s recent change of heart has been seen by many as acknowledging defeat. Ilyumzhinov’s announcement have an influence on his fellow countryman Dvorkovich’s announcement to run for the position.
When news broke that the FIDE president was under sanctions, some of his powers were delegated some of his powers to his deputy Makropoulos. However, when Makropoulos turned around and challenged his boss for the top seat, the chess family could not help but wonder if all is well at FIDE.
It is under such circumstances that even BCF finds it hard to announce their favourite candidate ahead of the elections. The elections are fast approaching and Thabano says the BCF will not make any major decisions before they hear what the three gentlemen have to offer. As for the departure of Ilyumzhinov, Thabano said that he is a good man who had a clear vision of what he intended to do during his tenure. Despite the bad publicity, the FIDE president has been hands on and visited all FIDE affiliates. “He did not neglect African countries because he is Russian, we were all under his wing, he toured all countries during his time,” Thabano said.
Actually, it was just last year under Thabano tenure that Ilyumzhinov visited Botswana for the very first time since his 23 stays at FIDE. During his visit, the FIDE president met with the former Minister of Basic Education Unity Dow. FIDE was proposing that Botswana government should make chess part of the school curriculum.“We hope that the initiative will not die with him, whoever will be taking over has to continue where the president will be leaving off,” BCF president said.
In addition, Ilyumzhinov ensured that chess experts including Grand Masters visited Botswana ahead of major competitions to help improve the performance of local players. In fact, Botswana is expecting an Egyptian GM that has been availed by FIDE next month. The GM is expected to coach the national team heading to the Chess Olympiad in September 2018.
Thabano added that Ilyumzhinov often donated chess equipment to BCF and provided books that assisted in understanding the game better. Quizzed on what he knows so far about the contesting candidates, Thabano remained cagey and said he does not want to be judged on how he defined each candidate at this stage. He however assured that BCF is well informed about all the three candidates.Meanwhile British GM Nigel Short visited Botswana sometime last year. Short was invited by a local based chess trust Talking Squares to play simultaneous games against local players.
It is alleged that during Short’s visit, he had also planned a public speaking lecture while still in Botswana. Short wanted to share his chess knowledge with local players but to his disappointment, only one player turned up to his invite.Out of frustration, Short is said to have vented out on social media and accused Botswana of falling behind in Chess because of its ignorant community. He is said to have uttered racist statements that left Botswana questioning his character. When reached for comment, BCF defended to say that the invite was not properly communicated and perhaps the reason why many did not turn up to lecture.
Standard Chartered Bank, the oldest bank in the country, will close two of its branches next month after previously denying such move. This week, the bank which is under Mpho Masupe said Mochudi and Orapa branches will close on the 3rd and 15th of August respectively. Mochudi branches will move its services to nearby Mowana Park in the leafy Phakalane suburb. On the other hand, Orapa will move its services to Letlhakane branch.
The bank which has been posting declining profits in recent years, said customers can still use digital banking platforms to access services or nearest branches. The bank has not stated if the closure of the two branches will affect its employees who were based at the above stations. Internationally, the bank has also been closing branches in a turnaround strategy aimed at improving profitability. The company which is headed by Bill Winters is listed headquartered in London.
Meanwhile, the local subsidiary, which is 121 year old, added it is still committed to the country’s banking needs. The bank, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), has been under pressure to up its profits due to industry liquidity, increased competition, and weak economy among others.
For the year to December 2017, the bank posted a record loss of P189 million. ‘The group had a challenging financial year attributable to constrained revenue growth, a significant loan impairment charge on one client and increase in costs. Interest rates remained low in 2017, further strained by a reduction in the bank rate and negatively impacting margins,” said the company in its financial statements signed by Chairperson, Prof Bojosi Otlhogile and Masupe. The company has also been affected by the mining sector which has been exposed to a plunge. Despite declining profits, the company’s head honchos insist the business fundamentals are intact.
The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) will this Saturday launch the first-ever Market Street Day to give manufacturers and retailers an opportunity to network.Public Relations Officer at MITI, Kaelo Kaelo explained that the objective of the event is to afford exhibitors an opportunity to network for business and share knowledge and ideas, in order to expand their market base.
It is also to showcase locally manufactured products and to bring together producers and retailers. Kaelo clarified that the initiative doesn’t cater for property at the moment. He said they want retailers to come and find out for themselves what they can get from the manufactures so that they can view their products and see how they can liaise for business.
Most of the shops in Botswana get their products from South Africa thereby creating a misperception that there is nothing to procure in Botswana.He said they expect over 100 companies to showcase at the event, adding that exhibitors will be there strictly by invitation. He said some of the companies were incubated by LEA, CEDA and BITC. He appealed to members of the public to join the ministry to appreciate locally manufactured products.
The event will be held at Central Business District (CBD) in the space between the High Court and the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.
The increased usage of social media platforms has negatively affected the traditional voice call services resulting in decreased turnover for public-owned Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL).
Presenting the company results recently, BTCL Managing Director, Anthony Masunga said the corporation has seen reduced numbers on normal voice call services but subscribers rather opt for social network communications such as Wattsapp and Facebook. “We are currently experiencing a decline in fixed voice calls due to mobile substitution. There is a shift from a traditional voice services because people are now migrating to cheaper faster and faster technologies,” said Masunga. The corporation recorded eight percent decline in profits to P217 million while revenue declined by three percent to P1, 5 billion in 2018.
He highlighted that it is difficult to operate under this increased competition because these are non-regulated services. “As much as traditional players are under regulation but these new technology services are not regulated. The question is now how do we operate within this changing ecosystem. In other countries, some of these services are regulated and subscribers are required to pay through network operators. This is a policy issue; the regulator needs to ensure that Recently Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority approved new retail tariffs for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to eliminate Off-Net premiums and ensure that MNOs charge consumers the same tariff for On-Net and Off-Net calls. MNOs are expected to implement the reduction of tariffs in two phases.
Masunga explained that in response to technology trends the corporation has adopted modernized, faster and cheaper technologies which are aligned with customer demands. During the year, customers were migrated to new technologies which are scalable and more efficient. Masunga said they expect that efficiencies and usage will improve as we complete the migration phase and retire old technologies. “We anticipate increased demand of our services in the long term as a result of improved network quality of service,” said Masunga.
Masunga also highlighted that competition in the telecommunications sector continued to intensify with the entry of new internet service providers leading to a downward pressure on prices. “This had an impact on our performance for the year. We however saw an increase in the uptake of data-centric products in line with market trends. The business during the year made P121m worth of investments in fixed broadband expansion and LTE/4G mobile broadband optimization to increase network coverage and enhance our value proposition,” said Masunga.
Available figures from Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority indicate that Botswana has one of the highest records of mobile penetration at 176 percent, internet users’ stand at 21.4 percent while the fixed line telephony services stand at 8.2 percent.
Members of the Rainbow Identity Association (RIA) will soon present a policy brief before Parliament. RIA, registered in 2010, advocates for the rights of intersex and transgender people in Botswana. It has over 100 registered members. In an interview with Botswana Guardian, RIA director Skipper Mogapi said that they were waiting to have a slot, through the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus led by MP Botlogile Tshireletso.
The initial agreement was for RIA to come on June 27 but it was postponed to a date to be announced. The term intersex refers to people born with variations in physical sex characteristics (such as chromosomes, gonads, and genitals) that are considered to be either male or female at the same time, only partially male or partially female, or neither male nor female. While some people with intersex variations also describe their sex or gender identity as non-binary, most are either male or female. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies intersex as a disorder, known as disorders of sex development (DSD) that can be treated and cured. This, according to RIA is against international law on human rights. A major concern for intersex people is that the so-called sex normalising procedures are often undertaken during their infancy and childhood, to alter their bodies, particularly the sexual organs, to make them conform to gendered physical norms, including through repeated surgeries, hormonal interventions and other measures.
As a result such children may be subjected to medically unnecessary, often irreversible, interventions that may have lifelong consequences for their physical and mental health, including irreversible termination of all or some of their reproductive and sexual capacity. Medical procedures may sometimes be justified in cases of conditions that pose a health risk or are considered life threatening. Such procedures however are sometimes proposed on the basis of weak evidence, without discussing and considering alternative solutions, says RIA. Challenges faced by intersex persons in Botswana include:
At birth a birth certificate is issued, as a form of recognition and documentation. This is a general global practice. In Botswana, the national identity card, Omang, educational documents, drivers’ license are among the struggle areas for intersex persons, as they bear only female and male gender binaries. Therefore RIA says it is a site for discrimination and inequality, as intersex persons struggle to have an appropriate gender allocated for them. The Births and Registration Act (BDRA) provides only for female and male binaries, for securing identity documents in Botswana. It is therefore disconnected to the reality of those in the gender margins. RIA feels it needs to be reviewed and amended to include those who do not conform to the normative binaries.
“However, the same Act allows for change of gender descriptor, on the legal document the procedure is only known by those working in the office of Omang and it is a ‘discretionary’ privilege,” states the Policy Brief.
There have been a few cases where intersex persons have managed to change their identity cards, to suit the gender they identity with, albeit without any publicly known processes. This, according to RIA also presents a problematic view and assumption that, change of gender status may be seen as a privilege for some and leaving others out. "An example is Case Y who asked a Kgosi to write a letter to the National Register to change their Omang, while others were sent to Princess Marina hospital for test. The process must be made clear and not disadvantage others, where multiple discrimination already exists,” reads the Policy Brief.
Access to health services
International law classifies surgeries performed on intersex persons, to conform to either male or female as genital mutilation. Access to health and health services is amongst the struggles and challenges that intersex person’s face. The challenges are attributed to the unnecessary surgeries that are performed on intersex children. Reproductive health and enjoyment of sex are greatly compromised. In terms of fertility, the surgeries, may lead to sterility and infertility. Therefore where intersex children are subjected to surgeries, they are denied the right to best attainable health, which is a fundamental human right.
Stigma and discrimination
As a result of the biological difference of intersex persons they have been kept secretive and face challenges in their communities, homes and school and professional environments. It could be an issue of physical outlook, use of ablutions and in a school environment, boarding facilities and shared accommodation.
Intersex students suffer in boarding schools as in the case of someone who was in a boarding school and had to wake at 4am, everyday during winter to bath before everyone woke up as he was scared they will recognise that he has long clitoris than other girls. Also he was forced to stay in female dormitory and wear a dress and the discomfort caused the intersex student not to perform well in school.
According to RIA, in prison facilities, an intersex person may be faced with scrutiny and shamed for their difference. Stigma and discrimination is multi-sectional and deprives intersex persons the quality of life that they must be able to enjoy.
Another harmful practice is in initiation schools, which some local tribes are still practising. Intersex persons are subjected to violence during initiation due to the fact that the ritual remains secret and circumcision has robbed many intersex persons of their sexual rights and the right to self- determination and bodily autonomy.
What should be done?
One of the greatest challenges faced by intersex persons in Botswana is legal recognition. Legal recognition has fundamental bearings on one’s identity, social standing, and the quality of life that one can enjoy. While the right to health is not enshrined in the Constitution, the right to life encapsulates the overall rights that human beings are inherently entitled to. Intersex persons must have adequate, quality and effective access to health services. There should be a transparent guide by MoH on how they are dealing with intersex births, says the Policy Brief, adding that it is common cause that some intersex persons are subjected to unnecessary genital surgeries, the consequence of which are fatal: emotionally, physically and mentally and health wise.
More research must be conducted by the MoH in the lived lives of intersex persons in Botswana, says the Brief.
RIA recommends that government should get more specialists and make guidelines public so that intersex persons know how to access services especially in public hospitals. “The only way change can be effected is when there is an open dialogue and understanding of what intersex is. This will also give way for awareness, so that intersex does not remain a hidden and shameful gender and life,” says the brief. The Association also advises that MoH together with the Ministry of Home Affairs must liberate and include intersex persons in granting their rights to identity.
“It is unfortunate and sad that an intersex person may be returned back home by another country’s immigration, because their identity documents do not match their physical outlook. In including intersex status and any mark as maybe appropriate, is to validate the right to identity and a secure environment. Therefore both Ministries must work together to protect the rights of intersex persons,” says the document.Members also state that there should be capacity training for all those who interact with infants. The public health per natal and post-natal programmes must factor in intersex births. The dialogue on intersex must be approached with a human rights based approach and as well that will decrease stigma and discrimination associated with intersex persons.