Councillors in Selebi Phikwe have opposed the eviction of churches both operating illegally and occupying land illegally in the former mining town.
Presenting a church squatters report at the recently ended full council meeting, Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) Chief Physical Planner, Samuel Aaron told councillors that a total of 60 churches were operating illegally in places not designated for worship and therefore should be evicted.
Councillors moved swiftly to block the recommendation to evict opting instead for consultation and liaising with the Department of Lands for expedition of allocation of plots for churches, notwithstanding the fact that out the 60 churches, only 19 of them are legally registered. Aaron noted in his presentation that the Local Authority undertook a study to profile places of worship and the field survey revealed that there are a total of 60 places of worship operating in areas not designated for worship, 31 of which operate in residential areas while 29 operate in open spaces.
According to the Registrar of Societies, of the 60 places of worship, only 19 churches are registered whilst others have no record of registration and therefore not recognised by the Laws of Botswana. Of the 19 registered churches, only four indicated that they have a membership size of 150 or more and 13 of all the 60 interviewed churches claim to have a membership size of 150 which is the minimum required membership size for churches to register with the Registrar of Societies as per the Act.
All these churches including the 19 which are legally registered operate from areas not designated for church use and therefore contravene the Town and Country Planning Act of 2013. Aaron revealed that the same issue has also been raised by the Selebi Phikwe Planning Area (2011-2035) which advocates for adoption of sustainable measures to meet land demands for such religious establishments.
He pointed out that the identified places of worship exist in the physical form of temporary structures of IBR sheets, wood and plastic which are aesthetically unappealing and compromises the aesthetics and safety of the town. “There are either no or inadequate provision of public conveniences in these sites hence making the site prone to environmental pollution,” he said.
He added that issues relating to illegal occupation of land by churches include noise pollution, land use conflicts, change of character of the area, environmental pollution due to some religious practices, safety of the congregates as some churches worship in the bush and mountains, as well as criminal acts perpetrated by some churches on worshippers under religious deception.
The objective of the study was to undertake an in-depth assessment of the problem, determine its root cause and come up with possible solutions, to determine the general provision of places of worship in Selebi Phikwe in terms of adequacy, to establish their background; date founded, membership size, where they were worshipping before and if they have land elsewhere, to determine reasons why the churches have resorted to squatting in open spaces and operate in residential areas as well as to develop possible solutions to the problem and make recommendations.
Out of the 60 churches operating illegally and in illegal places, 24 had indicated that that they once approached Department of Lands and Council and were informed that the plots will be advertised. According to Aaron, they complained that it takes long for civic and community plots to be allocated in Selebi Phikwe. This is despite the fact that still; only 19 of these churches are legally registered with their only wrong being operating in places not designated for worship.
Aaron presented three recommendations with the first one being eviction of all churches operating in areas not designated for church use. He had pointed out that the eviction will be preceded by consultation with churches and subject to consideration of suggestions from the consultation. Councillors did not like the eviction recommendation, with all that debated the report choosing the third recommendation on the list being to liaise with the Department of Lands for speedy allocation of church plots.
Councillor Kago Motsemme of Botshabelo said that the church plays an important role in building people’s personalities, arguing that if churches are evicted, the people may go to places where they as leaders of the people do not want them to go to. Another Councillor, Lillian Sethula said the council should investigate whether the affected churches had been allocated plots and failed to develop them.
Legal framework for eviction
Aaron stated that the need and desire to control developments is borne out of a number of concerns which include health, safety, environment, social and aesthetics as well as efficiency concerns. The challenge therefore, he said lies on how to fashion out a Development control code that address all the concerns without compromising flexibility and discretion on the part of planning authorities nor limiting the ability of the code to offer choices and not being overly prescriptive.
He noted that presently, the legal form of physical and development control in the country falls under two categories being the Town and Country Planning Act of 2013 which serves as the apex Planning Legislation that provides the legal backing, as well as the Development Control Code which provide statutory basis.
He said the preparation of development plan shows how land should be utilised and how physical developments ought to be carried out as per the Act. He explained that the Development Control Code is a set of planning regulations for land use and the activities that take place on it which are mainly physical developments, emphasising that the control of how land is carried out and affected is one of the functions of Planning Authorities also guided by the urban development standards.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.