The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu stopped short of endorsing the registration of the proposed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexual of Botswana (LEGABIBO) as an organisation representing the interests of homosexuals, with his shoddy answering affidavit filed with the High Court.
After the government’s refusal to register the organisation, twenty (20) applicants approached the High Court in March this year seeking an order to declare the decision of the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs in contravention of Section 3 of the constitution of the Republic of Botswana, as this denies the applicants equal protection before the law. The applicants also wanted court to declare that the decision hinders them from enjoying their freedom of expression and that it discriminates against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Initially on the 16th February 2012, LEGABIBO made an application with the Registrar of Societies for the registration of the organisation but the director of the Department of Civil and National Registration rejected that on the grounds that the country does not recognise homosexuality on 12th March 2012.
The minister later rejected the organisation’s appeal on the 5th October 2012. In a three paged document signed on the 6th May this year in Tutume, Minister Batshu deposed what appears to be a deliberately inadequate answering affidavit in which he fails to justify his decision for not registering the organisation. While it was expected that the minister would have been more combatant against the registration of the organisation, he instead admits that the government did not register the organisation because the country does not recognise homosexuality. Sources told Botswana Guardian that the minister would have come out with guns blazing dismissing homosexuality as immoral and against the values of the country, but he deliberately left that out in the affidavit. Responding to allegations raised by the applicants that the minister’s decision contravenes their constitutional rights, the minister could only reply, “I deny the contents of this paragraph.
Where my decision limits any of the applicants’ constitutional rights, it does so to a limited and justifiable extent. Therefore, my decision in this matter does not deserve to be set aside,” he said briefly. Further in his answering affidavit, the minister agrees that the applicants’ rights are protected by the constitution but added that Societies Act limits that protection. The minister did not elaborate. The minister’s answering affidavit has since raised speculation that the government has taken a decision to let the registration go ahead. The government officials according to sources are not averse to the registration of the organisation, but as politicians they do not want to be seen as publicly endorsing the registration of the organisation. “The scapegoat here has to be the court, not the politicians. That way it will shift the blame to the court,” said a source. The case is before Justice Terrence Rannowane.