Botswana Police Service (BPS) acted beyond its mandate by recently attempting to close down Enlightening Christian Gathering (ECG) which is owned by televangelist Prophet Shepherd Bushiri.
The church has been embroiled in controversies and accusations of failure to submit annual returns and audited financial statements and conducting Annual General Meetings (AGM) which culminated in the Registrar of Societies threatening to de-register the church. The church is said to have not been satisfactorily complying with legal requirements for all Societies.
The church recently moved to block the Police from closing the church as they were said to have disrupted the church service on Sunday demanding closure but without written authority to show the church politburo. When the matter reached court this week, it was established that the Attorney General Chambers’ representatives, on behalf of the Police met with ECG lawyers briefly to settle the matter amicably and not waste the Court’s time.
In the meet-up they drafted a consent order which was later made a lawful order by the presiding High Court Judge Justice Terrence Rannowane. The order stated: “application is granted and draft consent order filed of record is hereby made an order of the court as follows; a) the first respondent (Police) should not close the applicants (ECG) based on the circumstances of this matter unless there is express authority from Director of Societies for them to do so.”
Justice Rannowane continued to point out in the order that as such the application is therefore “withdrawn” with no order as to costs. When asked why they closed the church, Old Naledi Police Deputy Station Commander Meshack Dambuza defended the police saying they “did not initiate the closure” as they don’t have those powers.
He revealed to this publication: “we did not initiate that closure as we don’t possess such powers. We acted on information from our Ministry,” he said before requesting to call this reporter back with more information-which he never did. Speaking shortly after the announcement of the order outside court, ECG National Secretary Pelotshweu Baeng told WeekendPost that they “thank God of the Major 1 (Prophet Bushiri) for the court victory”.
“This is a victory of human rights and rule of law in Botswana. It is so because we have always maintained that the police were taking instructions unto themselves. They had no authority from anyone to close our church,” he maintained. According to Baeng, the victory is also a symbol of the protection of religious rights and the right to worship in Botswana. He said the Registrar of Societies, who is the lawful authority never authorised the church closure and there is no written authority to that effect.
The church representative stated that as ECG, they respect the rule of law and they won’t do anything in conflict with the law including pressurizing Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Edwin Batshu or to lure him to adjudicate to their side. “We trust him to fairly adjudicate on this matter.”
When asked what prompted the de-registration letter from the Registrar of Societies, he conceded that they had delayed to submit annual returns last year which normally includes audited financial statements approved at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) precisely because of a time factor. “Registrar of Societies wrote a letter to us on the 10th November asking us to show cause why they should not de-register our church due to non compliance, and gave us 21 days ultimatum,” he said.
He attributed the dealy to their financial year which he said ends in September while they are supposed to submit by end of August. “It means we would need another 3 months to produce the financial statements after that month hence the delay.” It is understood that the church is planning to amend the constitution to move their financial year from September to end of June to align it with the tax year and give three months allowance to prepare for the AGM auditing of financial statements for submission to the Registrar of Societies.
The church official highlighted that the Registrar of Societies had been using their old postal address and because of that, they were not aware that there were such letters written to them. Baeng also said they met with Prophet Bushiri and he emphasised to them the importance of church compliance and respect for the rule of law in Botswana.
The ECG National Secretary says the church has been auditing every year in the 5 years they have been operating in Botswana, except last year (2017) alone. ECG was represented by Thatayotlhe Noke of Thata Noke Attorneys while the Police were represented by AG representatives in the form of attorneys Boineelo Mosweu and Grenorrah Begane.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.