Accompanied by the Coordinator of Botswana Federation of the Disabled (BOFOD) Ms. Shirley Keoagile and member of the SAFOD Regional Executive Council (REC) Mr. Wabotlhe Chimidza, the SAFOD Dictator General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, and SAFOD Projects Coordinator, Mr. George Kayange, met Mr. Phinda Khame who is Research Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Office of the President – Disability Office, On 10th July 2014. The meeting was held at the Office of the President in Gaborone, Botswana.
The discussion centered on areas of collaboration between SAFOD and the office of the President and the challenges that disability sector face in Botswana – particularly within the Office of the President, BOFOD, and Botswana Council for the Disabled (BCD) – and how SAFOD could intervene, among other issues.
Mr. Khame explained that his office was responsible for coordinating all activities related to disability in the country.
He said at first, it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health but eventually, in 2010, a special unit under the President’s Office was set up after realizing that disability was not being adequately addressed as a human rights issue when it was being coordinated under the Ministry of Health (where it was still being perceived as a medical issue). He said his Office was currently mainstreaming disability in government programmes.
Mr. Khame explained that they were also championing the implementation of the Policy on Care for Persons with Disabilities.
He outlined the operational structure which had an overall committee at the higher level providing oversight functions called NACODI which had district committees reporting to it whose mandate was to submit quarterly reports.
Mr. Khame said one of the key challenges they were facing was that they did not have enough resources/funding. He said they were trying to seek buy-in from international and regional development partners such as UN agencies and SADC for resource mobilization.
Mr. Chiwaula, however, commended the Botswana leadership for putting in place all the necessary structures for effective coordination of disability programmes in the country despite challenges in funding. He noted the challenges in Botswana were similar to Malawi where the coordination structure was the same but lacked funding. He then asked about the role of BOFOD in this regard.
Mr. Khame explained that the role of BOFOD was being frustrated by the structural challenges/set up where BOFOD and other DPOs were being seen as competing for resources with the Botswana Council for the Disabled (BCD) which was supposed to be a Government arm but in practice behaved like an NGO.
But BOFOD Coordinator, Ms. Shirley Keoagile, expressed disappointment that BOFOD was being sidelined by BCD. She said BOFOD had ten affiliate DPOs from ten districts, potentially making it to be one of the most influential organisations with a wide/national representation. She argued that this set up should have been an opportunity for Government and other partners rather than being perceived as a threat to BCD.
She said due to the current status quo, BOFOD did not have a strong leadership to the extent that they had to always rely on international workshops in order to strengthen its members.
Mr. Chiwaula cautioned that as long as the DPOs remained weak in the country, the disability movement in general will equally remain weak hence the urgent need for Government (through the Office of the Present) and BCD to begin exploring ways on how best to work closely with BOFOD.
SAFOD REC member, Mr. Chimidza, reiterated the need for DPOs to be empowered with training and other capacity building programmes.
Mr. Chiwaula clarified that there was need for all parties to understand the fact that BCD was service provider while BOFOD was for advocacy, in the same way as it was in Malawi where the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) was a service provider while the Federation of the Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) was for advocacy. He noted that the same confusion used to exist in Malawi some years back, but through dialogue and consultations these misunderstandings were no longer there.
On areas of possible collaboration between SAFOD and the Office of the President, Mr. Khame said he would like to see SAFOD supporting the office in areas of advocacy and research.