Outspoken umbrella body of Para and Pentecostal churches which are popularly known as “fire churches” in Botswana, Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) has resolved to merge with other umbrella church bodies in the country, Weekend Post can reveal.
The contentious church movement will amalgamate with conservative Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) and little known Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) under the banner of a new network organisation called Botswana Network of Christian Communities (BONECCO).
Already, the Secretariat of the three Umbrella bodies has completed the task of working on the BONECCO constitution – which was drafted way back in 2011. There was also a high level powered meeting comprising of representatives from the 3 umbrella bodies which was consigned with the adoption of the said BONECCO constitution that will also provide policy direction.
According to a letter passed to Weekend Post dated 7 April 2017, from the Secretariat of the 3 bodies to its leadership, the move to unite the Christian umbrella bodies follows “7 long years” in which they have been working tirelessly towards formalising the “historic” cooperation. The said letter was signed by General Secretaries; Reverend Mosweu Simane (BCC), Pastor Gaolekwe Ndwapi (EFB) and Reverend Christopher Modikwa (OAIC).
Speaking on the merger, the convener of the 3 bodies Pastor Master Matlhaope of EFB, told Weekend Post that the new church network will not replace the individual organisations that have been existing (BCC, EFB,OAIC) but will be a platform where “commonalities are tackled together”. He stated: “But we will leave room for existing umbrella churches to continue as they have been so that their interests or inclinations and ideologue continue to exist unhindered. This one is just a platform to collaborate.”
He explained that way back before independence in 1966; churches played a pivotal role in the country as they held some sectors like health and education although government later came on board. Although even up to date, they still collaborate here and there, they believe churches can still do more, and that working together will be more ideal.
It is understood that in 2010 the leadership of the bodies came together to deliberate on their networking initiatives and this ushered in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2011 – which legitimised full participation, commitment and position in the process that would later lead to the formulation of the new umbrella network.
Matlhaope, who is also the EFB President stated that as the umbrella church movement they will be more collaborative adding that “we are initiating a transformation network, in it as the church we feel we can do more than we are currently doing.” In the past, EFB has never shied away from registering their position on key topical issues affecting the country.
They have continuously expressed its concern at the relentless campaign by Botswana Networks on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and other similar organisations whose aim is the legalisation of prostitution and homosexuality in Botswana which they repeatedly called “unholy.” They pointed out that homosexuality, fornication, adultery and incest are inappropriate expressions of sexuality since they are not just unbiblical but they are also not in consonance with Botswana national culture and traditions.
In that regard, the umbrella of fire churches has also taken a swipe at proponents of homosexuality, prostitution, abortion regardless of weighty voices who called for legalization of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion like that of former President Festus Mogae, renowned human rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi and law maker representing Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso.
Another church umbrella body to be part of the network is BCC. The conventional church movement was put on the spot light last year after sending one of its leadership cadres Reverend Thabo Mampane to represent them at a local private radio show where he “colluded” with contentious and provocative Pastor Steve Anderson over “homosexuality.”
According to random listeners at the time, Mampane could not articulate his position with regard to homosexuality very well which led to the US Pastor humiliating him as he instead got angry and emotional during the interview. This made the BCC leader susceptible to heavy criticism afterwards.
Despite his (Mampane) remarks, the BCC General Secretary Reverend Mosweu Simane released a statement highlighting that BCC, as a network of Churches with different doctrinal positions, continues to engage its members towards formulating a common position on the issues of human sexuality with particular reference to homosexuality, which will represent the divergent views and positions held by members.
“The Council therefore does not have a position on the issue of homosexuality,” he said of BCC which is known for sitting on the fence with regard to many topical matters affecting the nation – the inclination which differs with that of EFB. Relatively less known OAIC represents homegrown African churches founded originally during the colonial period, that have developed indigenous forms of worship, theology and social organization, all deeply inspired by a vision that is both Christian and African. It is unclear as to what position they have taken before on various matters of national interest. The collaboration of the 3 church bodies under umbrella BONECCO will reveal how easy it is to work together as church umbrellas harboring different ideologue.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.