From humble beginnings in the streets of Somerset East in Francistown, 37-year-old Titose Tebogo Mapodise has risen through the ranks at the Office of the Ombudsman to be a respected legal brain and a champion of human rights.
The Chief Legal Investigator and Head of Station in Francistown is an avid reader and an author with a keen interest on judiciary, human rights and reforms.
An analytical thinker with an exceptional attention to detail, Mapodisi’s links her award laden 12 years in the Ombudsman’s office to a strict upbringing in the tough terrains of Somerset.
She is also keen to share her expertise with the next generation and works part-time as a Business Law Lecturer at the University of Botswana’s Francistown campus.
Voice Reporter Kabelo Dipholo paid her a visit at her office, and in this candid interview, Mapodisi opens up about her personal life and gives insight on her latest publication about the establishment of National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in Botswana.
Q. Thank you for granting us this interview. You have been with the Ombudsman Office for over a decade. Kindly take us through your career in this noble office.
A. I joined this office in 2006 as an Assistant Legal Investigator and was promoted to Legal Investigator in 2008.
I rose through the ranks to become the Senior Legal Investigator, Principal Legal Investigator and my current position of Chief Legal Investigator.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue law. Was it through influence from your parents?
A. Not really.
I did my senior secondary school in Ghanzi. Selecting a tertiary course for me was something that was completely new in my family, both my parents having never set foot in a tertiary institution.
My mother was just happy that I had passed with first class and she boasted to her friends that I was going overseas.
However, she did not know the process that had to be undertaken for one to study abroad.
I approached my then Guidance and Counselling Teacher, Mr. Sethapelo who guided me on career choices.
From the courses which he identified and deemed as marketable and well paying, I put law at the top of my list.
I got admitted to do my LLB at the University of Botswana.
I will forever be grateful to him for leading me to this noble profession.
Q. Interesting. How would you describe your upbringing in Somerset?
A. I come from a family of seven kids and I lost my mother Rosinah Mosinyi in 2004 (may her soul rest in eternal peace).
I was doing year three then at the University of Botswana.
The youngest sibling was six at the time and I, being the eldest daughter, had to assume the mother role and assist my father Kgosi Mokwena Mosinyi to take care of all of them.
I am proud to state that my siblings have turned out to be honourable men and women in the society.
Our last born, Ludo Mosinyi succumbed to cancer in 2011.
May her soul rest in peace.
Contrary to some beliefs Somerset East was quite a safe place for its residents.
We played a lot of traditional games in the streets which laid the foundation of our social and interaction skills.
The residents looked out for each other.
Whatever criminal activities that were happening never affected the residents because as we know, those who do such activities regard them as work.
So they worked more in town than within the location.
And back then, it was petty pick-pocketing as opposed to nowadays where we see heavy offences like robbery at knife point being committed in households.
All in all, I had a normal upbringing.
I grew up in a small house which was later extended.
I witnessed my parents working hard to connect electricity and buy things like a television set which were prized during those days.
During my upbringing, I learnt important lessons such as to work hard and to always aspire higher.
I grew up with the likes of Tomeletso Sereetsi and it was an amazing upbringing that shaped who I am today; the inspiration that I try my best to share with my kids.
Q. Talking about upbringing, what do you think is needed to help shape the lives of youngsters living in the so called ‘tough’ neighborhoods?
A. Attitudes of kids today depend on mentorship from their parents.
It is parents’ guidance that’ll shape young people to become what they want and can be.
We have to let them know that opportunities are bountiful and that your background is not a barrier to a brighter future.
I always say that it does not matter that a child attends a government school or a private school.
In a poorly performing government school, there can be an A* student.
An example is me in the year 2000 when matric results were released at Ghanzi Senior School.
I am certain that in the best performing government school back then and in one of the private schools, there were a lot of kids who could not make it to University at that time.
So it is all about positive attitude and working hard.
I also believe instilling the fear of God at an early age is important.
I grew up as a Christian and that has shaped me into the upright human being I am today.
My parents raised me to be the best I can be.
Q. Kindly break it down for a layman to understand the role of the Office of the Ombudsman.
A. The Office of the Ombudsman receives complaints from the public, being complaints about not receiving services in the manner which they are intended to be rendered by government offices or any authority which acts on behalf of the government.
Upon receipt of a complaint, the Ombudsman office engages the department concerned.
Where the Ombudsman office identifies injustice, it seeks to put this right.
The Ombudsman office is committed to achieving redress for the individual, but also, where it identifies systemic failings, it seeks changes in the work of the government departments.
An Ombudsman office offers their services free of charge, and are thus accessible to individuals who cannot afford to pursue their complaints through the courts.
Q. Who can request assistance from the Office of the Ombudsman?
A. Anyone within the borders of Botswana can seek help from this office whenever they feel they are not getting the help they should be getting.
This includes foreigners and private companies which are deemed as corporate persons.
I must say that I have observed that the level of awareness about the Office of the Ombudsman has significantly increased because today people know that when they are not happy about services in a public office, they have a right to demand to see a Head of Department before they approach the Ombudsman.
We see people coming with copies of letters to prove that they did make efforts to formally complain within the departments where they sought help before coming to the Ombudsman.
It is a satisfactory level of awareness.
It remains for public offices to be responsive to public complaints which remain a focus area for the Office of the Ombudsman.
Q. So what exactly is your role?
A. My designation is ‘Chief Legal Investigator’.
I am the Head of Station for the Francistown Ombudsman Office.
The jurisdiction of my office covers the Tswapong region, Bobirwa, the Central region from Palapye, the whole of the North East and the North up to Nata.
My duties are quasi-judicial.
Q. You recently published a book. Kindly share with our readers what the book is about.
A. Botswana is a stable democracy with a good human rights record.
Notwithstanding this record, there have been repeated calls for Botswana to establish a national human rights institution (NHRI).
A NHRI is an office established by a government under the constitution or by law the functions of which are specifically to promote and protect human rights.
My book is titled ‘Towards the Establishment of a National Human Rights Institution in Botswana: Lessons from South Africa and Zimbabwe’.
It acknowledges that advocacy for the establishment of a NHRI in Botswana has sufficiently been made.
The government of Botswana has been fully convinced that indeed there is a need to establish a NHRI and has taken steps towards establishing one.
This development informs the focus of the book.
The development presented an opportunity for me to write about the process of establishing a NHRI which is compliant to Principles Relating to the Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions (Paris Principles).
Q. Why did you see the need to publish such a book?
A. I felt the need to be instrumental in bringing national awareness to the fact that it is crucial for Botswana to ensure it establishes a NHRI which is compliant to the Paris Principles.
A NHRI which is not compliant to the Paris Principles would be as good as non-existent.
In my book, I have used South Africa as an example of a Paris compliant NHRI which we should emulate and benchmark from, more especially when formulating the law which establishes the NHRI as well as in operationalising the NHRI.
In juxtaposition, I used the case of Zimbabwe to show that it is not sufficient to formulate a law that encapsulates all the Paris Principles only for the state to fail to operationalise the NHRI in compliance with the Paris Principles, especially in issues of adequate funding and independence.
Q. Batswana are generally known to be a non-reading nation. How has the response to your book been so far?
A. I am not privy to any study to that effect.
What I know is that the first batch of my book, which was meant to test the market, has sold out.
My publisher is working on printing more copies for wider distribution.
The book has also received positive response from the international community on Amazon.
Q. That’s impressive! Thanks once again for your time, before we go what do you have planned for the weekend?
A. I’m a mother of three (Seth, Shekinah and El-Roi).
I am also a wife to Patrick Mapodisi.
So most of my weekend time is taken up by family.
Sundays are reserved for church.
I also travel on holidays.
I love photography and singing and will probably turn up for church choir rehearsal on Saturday.