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A champion for human rights

The people's lawyer

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A champion for human rights
GO-GETTER: Mapodisi

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. There is not comment about the abolishment of TORTURE HOUSES Those who speak out are being sent to TORTURE HOUSE and these could be in the REGION one of the Torture HOUSES was shown on global television was in Burundi . Why are the African Leaders approving of the Torture of those and yet when they are on a INTERNATIONAL PLATFORM THEY DENY AND HIDE THESE ALLEGATIONS. It is the AFRICAN LEADERS WHO ARE APPROVING OF THESE TORTURE HOUSES BECAUSE THEY FEAR OF THEIR REMOVAL AND ON ONE HAND THEY SPEAK OF DEMOCRACY
    AND TRANSPARANCY
    In August 2018 this was the following allegations of REFUGEES BEING STARVED – is that DEMOCRACY IN THIS HOSTILE COUNTRY WHERE THIS DUKWE REFUGEE CAMP IS LOCATED.

    UNHCR, Botswana Government accused of starving Caprivi refugees
    23 Aug 2018

    The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) faces mounting accusatio0ns of starving refugees from Caprivi ain Namibia that have declined calls to go back home.

    More than 900 refugees, including at least 400 children who have never lived in Namibia, have been left in limbo after they were told by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that they would no longer receive services such as food rations and access to medical treatment at the Dukwi Refugee Camp where they have been living for almost two decades.

    Last week the UNHCR cautioned refugees from Caprivi that all services hitherto provided to them will be discontinued.

    That was after some of them declined efforts by Botswana Government to voluntarily repatriate back to Namibia where they say they face both prosecution and persecution.

    The refugees first came into Botswana in the 1990s after an insurgency in the then Caprivi Strip that the Namibian Government called a secession attempts before mounting a heavy crackdown.

    The Caprivi Refugees spokesperson Felix Kakula argues that the UNHCR move is quite disturbing given traditional norm that aid is not only extended to refugees who are given refugee status.

    Amnesty International has also spoken against the UNHCR latest move to deny refugees food in a bid to force them to go back to Caprivi.

    Amnesty International says refugees still face persecution and human rights violations.

    The human rights group is expected to send a special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Displaced Persons and Migrants to Botswana to assess the Caprivi refugees status.

    Kakula indicated that UNHCR has informed them that they were cutting services extended to them as the Caprivi refugees were no longer persons of concern after they lost their refugee status.

    “We are wondering why the UNHCR is in cahoots with the government [of Botswana] that revoked our status when they are supposed to be helping us. We went to court to block the government from going ahead with the deportation of Caprivians after we lost our refugees status,”’added Kakula.

    Kakula indicated that they were first informed through a phone call that food rations and referral to private clinics will no longer be provided since the refugees lost their status.

    Kakula indicated that the reason to cut services extended to them was taken out of anger.

    He was concerned that denying refugees aid was not reasonable enough since aid was not only given to people who have been granted refugees status only.

    Kakula was concerned that the latest move was meant to starve them out in a bid to force them back to Namibia. He indicated that the reason they fled was due to political environment in Namibia. He was concerned that people in Caprivi continue to face human rights abuse and their political party United Democratic Party remains barred as a political party in Namobia.

    Kakula was of the view that they fear for their lives.

    According to him the UNHCR as an organisation was in breach of international principles by discontinuing the refugees essential services.

    However Amnesty International has also called on Botswana’s authorities not to force any of the Caprivi refugees to return to their home country Namibia, if a real risk remains that they would face persecution or other serious human rights violations.

    Amnesty International said the deadline for their voluntary repatriation expired today.

    Amnesty International, Deputy Director for Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda advised that the government should not force the refugees to return home if their personal safety is not guaranteed.

    “These men, women and children should not be forced to return home if their personal safety cannot be guaranteed,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “A lot is at stake here if the government of Botswana forces people to return to Namibia where they may face human rights violations. It will be breaching its international and national obligations under law.”

    African Charter, Commissioner Lawrence Murugu Mute indicated that they were kept in the dark about the state of Namibia refugees in Botswana. According to him the commission was unable to inform itself during the commission visit in Botswana last month. Mute noted that they will send a special Rappoteur on refugees to Botswana to assess the situation of Namibia refugees.

    However the UNHCR office was unable to comment on the latest development as their phones rang unanswered.

  2. Why is the SADC Chief Executive not taking this on board for the whole Region ??? it is about those with disabilities why have Governments not done anything why do they have to be told how to take care of their people??”Botswana: Govt Neglects the Disabled – UN Specialist

    “United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Rights Specialist Joella Marron has challenged government to establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in order to up its game to improve the Human Rights situation, especially for People with Disabilities whose rights remain neglected in most instances.

    She made the call on Monday during United Nations Human Rights 70th Anniversary and giving a current overview on the human rights situation in Botswana. She said although government has made efforts in respect for human rights, a lot still needs to be done with regards to people living with disabilities. “We applaud government efforts of ratifying some of the conventions such as Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and while acknowledging this significant strides a lot needs to be done in the active participation and inclusion of the disabled in the political, social and economic decisions making process as well,” she stressed.

    Marron noted that similar to the UN Specialist on Minorities who visited the country in August and compiled a report on minorities’ issues, a UN Special Rapporteur on disability will also visit the country next year to assess the PWDs situation and compile report that will send a strong message or recommendations to government which is yet to ratify and form party to the Convention on the Rights of People Living with Disabilities (PWDs) treaty.”

  3. In a country where there is DEMOCRACY ONE DOES NOT EVER DENY REFUGEES FOOD AND IN A COUNTRY WHERE THERE IS DEMOCRACY PEOPLE LIVING WITH DISABILITIES ARE EQUAL LIKE EVERYONE ELSE It shows the Continent MEANING OF DEMOCRACY IS BEING MISLED BY THE LEADERS

  4. One questions if REFUGEES can also seek help from this office and if they are being told that such an office exists ???