Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sex scandals in Botswana politics: When leaders become predators!

A few years back, a councillor of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was accused of molesting and impregnating an underage learner. The story also implicated another high ranking politician, an Assistant Cabinet Minister who is said to be a close associate of the alleged child molester. 

The Assistant Minister’s role in the alleged defilement was in orchestrating a devious plan to silence the victim and save the councillor and the ruling BDP public embarrassment. Allegations on Facebook were that the Assistant Minister had suggested the elimination of the pregnant teenager in order to save the political career of the councillor. 

Facebook allegations further revealed that the Assistant Minister assured the councillor that the party’s Secretariat has been briefed precisely to ensure that the case is buried before it became a matter of interest to the public. Further allegations were that the councillor had boasted that Sebina Police officers were in his pockets and that the girl’s family would be silenced by offer of cash. 

Not surprising, it turned out that the police were not keen to investigate the case which they classified as wild village gossip. The ruling BDP also seemed uninterested in the case in ways that suggested that the party condones sexual violence on minors by its prominent leaders. 

When members of the public realized that the law enforcement officers and the ruling BDP were not willing to take action against the councillor, they mobilized themselves into a movement that came to be known as #IshallNotForget#

This movement offered other victims of sexual abuse a platform to open up and share their experiences and in a short space of time, many victims of sexual abuse narrated their ordeals at the hands of sex predators with political leaders as the main culprits. 

The Sebina incident was and is not an isolated case involving prominent, powerful and politically connected people who prey on defenceless and vulnerable girls. The reality is that there are far too many teenagers who have suffered at the hands of people who are expected to protect the girl child. 

However, many of those who have been violated have opted to remain silent out of fear of public humiliation and/or elimination. Some have opted to remain silent because they are convinced that no one would believe their horror stories implicating eminent persons who are presumably above the law. In some cases victims who decide to speak out are accused of attempting to extort money from abusive leaders hence many victims of sexual abuse suffer in silence. 

It is a truism that sexual violence on female members of political parties is widespread and almost acceptable because such occurrences just come and disappear mainly because the big guys always manipulate state apparatuses to get away with murder, all the time, every time.     

In the past weeks, there have been reports that an honourable Member of Parliament (MP) from the ruling BDP has impregnated a teenager, certainly not for the first time and probably not for the last time. As usual, his political party – the ruling BDP had to be hard-pressed to comment on the story, reluctantly emphasizing the presumption of innocence wherein one is innocent until proven guilty. 

This official position suggests that the BDP was not going to take any action against the alleged child molester without relentless pressure from the public. Notably, the BDP and other political parties have always trivialized reports of sexual assault on minors by their high ranking members. It is therefore not surprising that community leaders who have been accused of sexual misconduct barely face the music for their actions hence we have repeat offenders sprawling the political landscape. 

Whether it is a result of our culture that perpetuate the traditional construct of masculinity, the reality is that partisan politics have tended to trump morals such that political parties would rather throw victims of sexual abuse under the bus in order to protect the image of their parties. 

In doing so, political parties have tended to ensure that sex predators who dabble as the leadership are assisted to get away with murder. The result is that sex predators are over-represented at the top of the political hierarchy. In that score, it can be adduced that high ranking politicians are more likely to commit sex crimes mainly because of the inherent protection they enjoy by virtue of their positions in society. 

It can also be inferred that power, in particular, political power provides mechanisms and levers for sexual predators to pursue a lifelong career in molesting vulnerable girls. Thus, one can safely advance the argument that political power co-exists with sexual violence. 

Fundamentally, it can be posited that people pursue power to achieve certain goals including predation hence respected and important people are more likely to become sex predators than ordinary citizens. This could imply that political leaders who have not yet unleashed terror on young girls may have not done so only because they have not been tempted by the powers they possess. Otherwise, they do have the wherewithal to unleash their terror as much as those who have already done so. 

In a way, people who pursue power and ultimately get it would eventually want to use that power for personal satisfaction. Generally, politicians enjoy having power over others and would never miss an opportunity to use their positions and the perks of their positional power to manipulate and subjugate defenceless groups. Thus, sex predation is not simply a quest for sexual gratification by perpetrators but rather it is more about showcasing power and privilege. 

Perhaps this explains why the U.S president Mr Donald Trump has never been remorseful about allegations that he had always sexually assaulted women throughout his adult life. Instead Mr Trump has downplayed his predatory behaviours by boasting that ‘when you are a star, they let you do it’. In other words, those with power can do as they please with women because they are entitled to do so and again because their victims have limited choices for recourse. 

The import of Mr Trump missive is that sexual violence is an inevitable expression of power and privilege. Thus, the sexual abuse of vulnerable persons is a symptom of and an assertion of political power. Essentially, it could be said that power, particularly political power, induces a possibility for sexual violence. 

In that case, the defilement of minors by leaders should be understood in the context of our culture that promotes extreme inequalities and encourages the use of power over others. For the most part, sex predation is not a behaviour problem of a few individuals who have been caught with their pants down but rather it is a product of power relations. 

Essentially, political leaders and other prominent personalities seek more power to get whatever they want and that could include the abuse of minors and vulnerable groups in society. Many people who aspire to lead are driven by personal ambition and one such desire is to have the power to control and use their subjects and/or followers. 

The social status of our leaders permits them to sexually assault women, especially minors with impunity mainly because the subjects are thrust in the leaders’ bondage and have to take instructions first and whisper about their ordeal at some later stage. It is a hard fact that vulnerable and powerless people make the best victims largely because of their ignorance about human right issues. 

It is now in the public domain that the hierarchy of the Catholic priesthood had sex predators who used their positions in the church to target and sexually abuse minors. Thus, power inequality between the priests and the young believers facilitated their evil deeds and for decades the priests molested minors who possibly interpreted their abuse as though it was the right thing to happen to them or that the church leaders were entitled to access and violate the bodies of teenage worshippers. 

As is the case in political realm, sexual abuse is a function of power inequality which means that the wider the power inequality the more frequent and severe the abuse. It should be noted that in villages, political leaders are treated as saints culminating in some form of master-slave relationship wherein the master owns slaves and could do anything with them. This explains why big people go for the minors and disadvantaged girls from impoverished families. 

While it is a fact that not all community leaders are sex predators, society must nevertheless treat all of them as strong candidates for sex crimes. Thus, society ought to be suspicious of people with power, more especially political power. This is because it is hard to distinguish leaders from paedophiles. 

Concluding, women ought to be very cautious so that they do not find themselves in pr

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

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