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Police unlawfully closed Bushiri’s church – High Court

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Justice Rannowane continued to point out in the order that as such the application is therefore “withdrawn” with no order as to costs.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.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

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.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

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.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

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.

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