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Botswana at 50: Pastors rebuke ‘sinners’

EFB leader Master Matlhaope

As the country celebrates its golden jubilee, the Evangelist Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) which is an umbrella body of Pentecostal churches in Botswana has reflected on the country’s journey to 50 years of independence, noting achievements as well as shortfalls and concerns that the nation faces.

A Christian based organization, EFB has sensitized the nation on trends of emerging spiritual challenges, likely to undermine scriptural foundations of the gospel and to be a prophetic voice of the nation.

Never too shy to submit their voice on issues of national importance, EFB says in discharging their objectives they are guided by unshakeable values of being assertive and candor to “God mandated course.”    

EFB takes a swipe at proponents of homosexuality, prostitution, abortion

Although some weighty voices have so far called for legalization of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion like that of former President Festus Mogae, renowned human rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi, law maker representing Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso, EFB this attacked them through a statement seen by Weekend Post- for their ‘unholy’ stance.

Outspoken EFB leader Master Matlhaope stated that “as we begin another journey of fifty years, we would like to once again, register our objection to certain calls for legalization of certain social aberrances.” He asserted that the call for the legalisation of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion in the name of human rights is deviant from “our nation's foundation and would lead us into a serious moral precipice”.

According to the blunt Pastor, these so called rights go against the very core and foundation that has held this nation intact in its respect for culture, sanctity of human life and its identity as a God fearing nation.

“We as EFB believe that the infallibility of Scripture in these matters is non-negotiable. There is no right to do wrong. Batswana know what is right and wrong and have defined that in their penal code. Any change to Batswana's self-defined moral sanctions should not be left to a few individuals to decide, but should be put before the nation through a referendum,” he cautioned.  

Matlhaope reiterated that homosexuality as a practice is criminal and must remain so, and added that it is of extreme importance to note that Batswana have not condoned homosexual behaviours or tendencies as is indicated in recent Afrobarometer research. The study indicated that majority of Batswana abhor and shun it, as per “the bible and tswana customs”.

The umbrella body of ‘fire churches’ maintained that Botswana should not allow herself to be pressurized by current wave of transient trends which are perpetuated by international pressure groups. He added that these groups have organized to disadvantage and punish nations that are determined to preserve their own culture, identity and norms – and “this type of pressure is unethical and wrong and must not be tolerated”.

“Such practices despise the very foundations upon which this nation is built on,” he asserted. He highlighted that "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people" (Prov 14:34), and submission to Biblical norms holds hope to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

“We submit that civil laws should be based on what is morally right. There should be no civil right to do a moral wrong,” Matlhaope stressed.

On abortion, the EFB leader asserted that it was the mother’s right to control her body under normal circumstances, but when she is carrying another human being within her body there is a conflict of two rights: the baby's right to live and the mother's right to control her body. “We contend as EFB that the right to live is supreme.”

Abortion, Matlhaope continued, does not solve the circumstances of conception but adds more evil to it and that no problem should be solved by killing innocent babies.

He also dispelled prostitution adding that it’s abominable and degrades a woman's worth. “God has vested a high worth and dignity upon all humans, and we must not enact laws that take away the dignity and worth of women through the commercialization and commoditisation of their bodies and their God given femininity,” the maverick Pastor insisted.

The contentious “man of God” appealed to Batswana in general to be steadfast and fearless in standing for what they believe is right for them and their nation.

Meanwhile former president Festus Mogae has publicly declared that homosexuality and sex work should be decriminalized in Botswana to assist curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS, as various studies identified them as catalysts to the scourge.

In addition, Human rights attorney Uyapo Ndadi has also avowed that there be decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution as they are fundamental rights of a human being and also personal choices that no one including government should temper with.

More organisations including Botswana Network of Ethics, law and HIV/AIDS and Lesbians, Gays and bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) have also been categorically vocal and gigantic proponents of legalization of homosexuality and prostitution.   

Botswana comes from far, still maintains peace, political stability

The church organization has also encouraged that people of Botswana come together to give thanks to the Lord as we celebrate the  country’s independence.

“EFB would like to take this opportunity to thank the Almighty God for bringing us into a golden jubilee as an independent nation. We would also like to take this time and wish all Batswana a blessed, prosperous, peaceful, and happy 50th year anniversary. We may not have achieved all our goals and realised all our dreams but, with God Botswana has a future,” Matlhaope declared.

“The country has moved from being one of the poorest nations, to a high middle income nation, achieved reduction of illiteracy, maintained peace and political stability, developed health facilities and road networks amongst many others.”

According to the EFB leader, the nation is nevertheless faced with challenges as is common in life. Although HIV & AIDS has been contained to a large extent, he said it still poses a threat to our nation's health and prosperity. He added that drugs, alcohol and substance abuse still remain a challenge as we see many lives with potential being destroyed by the same. “We implore every Motswana to take full responsibility by making healthy choices and abiding by principles which lead to a long healthy life and prosperity,” he advised.  

Matlhaope noted with sadness the scourge of ritual murders that continue to take place in this country. “The belief that one can get rich or prosper through human sacrifice is not only inhuman, but barbaric and satanic”, he pointed out. “Perpetrators of such horrendous evil should not have any place in the current and future of this nation. We appeal to all Batswana to play the role of keepers and preservers of life and to help law enforcers curb this vice, and to ensure that we build a Botswana that is free from the crime of ritual murders.”   

Pastor Matlhaope also observed that in the times when we have seen other African nations experiencing political turmoil, anarchy, genocide, economic retrogression, xenophobia, suicide bombings, civil wars along tribal lines and political affiliations, “we are grateful to God that such vices are not found within our borders.”

At 50, EFB pays tribute to Botswana founding fathers

Meanwhile, in acknowledging the country’s heroes, and while falling short of declaring Botswana a Christian nation because of its foundation, Matlhaope mentioned that, “our hearts go out to our founding fathers that laboured and laid a good Christian foundation for this beloved country; the likes of Kgosi Khama III who was married to a Christian woman called Mma Bessie and also best known as the founder of a Christian state, Kgosi Sechele I who was not only a ruler of his tribe but a missionary among his own and other African peoples.

He added that other dikgosi such as Kgosi Bathoen I, Kgosi Mathiba and many others whose history has not yet been written, played part in the “spiritual transformation that formed our foundation as a nation.”

This brief background according to him is the preponderance of the subsequent bloodless independence which we attained in 1966, adding that when other nations surrounding us shed blood for their independence, the faith of our forefathers in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus gave us peaceful independence.

“We celebrate those who played a midwifery role to the then newly formed Republic; the likes of Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire, Dr Gaositwe Chiepe and others, the various leaders in the then opposition parties like Rre Phillip Matante and Motsamai Mpho and others, the various church denominations that existed during the time.”

According to the Pastor, “We know they prayed for the peace, and tranquillity of our nation, and God granted it, and as a result we enjoy the same today for which we are truly grateful.”

The debated EFB is an umbrella of ‘fire churches’ which are evangelical, Pentecostal and Para church organisations in the country. It boasts of a membership of denominations and organisations – which have member branches across the country, and currently EFB membership stands at 79 and the voice of EFB is collective of this membership.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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