Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkaigwa has expressed utter disappointment at the answer he got from Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu on the declaration of Botswana as a Christian State.
Addressing the media on the sidelines of the just-ended first meeting of the second session of the 11th Parliament, Nkaigwa said that it was so unfortunate that the minister could not comprehend his question, hence submitting an invalid answer.
The visibly unmoved Nkaigwa says he intends to table the motion in Parliament on the declaration of Botswana as a Christian nation.
The reasons he advanced were that Christianity has a massive following in the country therefore it should be recognized by the State.
According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, about 79.3 percent of Batswana are Christians, a significant increase of 7.7 percent from the previous census which was conducted in 2001. In addition, he says that the plethora of problems besieging the country needs the intervention of the Christian God. “Our country is in an appalling state and the political leadership has failed beyond reasonable doubt to resolve all this mess.
Our people go for months without basic amenities like water and electricity; our children in public schools are failing dismally and the economy is growing at a snail’s pace. Young people, who constitute 60 percent of our population, remain unemployed. The agricultural sector, which used to contribute immensely to our economy, is almost extinct and the performance of the mining sector has plummeted. I mean if I were to reveal the tragedy that has befallen our noble country; the sun would rise and set,” declared Nkaigwa.
A devout Christian and a member of Rivers of Living Waters, led by Archbishop Bafana Stephen Zondo, Nkaigwa accused the country’s political leadership of not submitting to God and seeking his guidance.
He quotes from the Bible, how in the times of Old Testament, Kings and emperors of ancient Israel, Judea and Rome worked hand in hand with prophets and priests to address the problems that had engulfed those nations.
“If you read the Holy Bible with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, you will understand that the leaders in the past like King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, King David, King Solomon and King Saul of Israel could not do anything without the approval of Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Nathan since they communicated to God concerning all the matters of the nation. So our leadership here should imitate that of ancient Israel for our nation to prosper,” asserted Nkaigwa.
Responding to Nkaigwa’s question in the House, Labour and Home Affairs minister Batshu said that there were neither plans nor any intentions to declare Botswana a Christian State. He said that the primary reason was that the Republican Constitution protects freedom of conscience under section 11 where it has been provided that except with his or her own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of conscience, and for this section the said freedom includes freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his or her religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his or her religion or belief in worship, teaching , practice and observance.
In conclusion, Batshu said that Botswana does not have a State- sponsored religion and therefore officially neutral when it comes to matters of religion, but as a nation, Botswana is currently deeply influenced by Christian values.
Nkaigwa was unimpressed, saying he expected much from Batshu since he too was a Christian and a pastor. He said that the notion that Botswana was a secular State was non-existent.
“To me secularism is the belief that religion should not play a role in government and other public parts of the society. In other words, it is the separation of politics from religion. So if indeed we are a secular State, why is it that our government is recognizing Christian festivals such as Christmas, Ascension Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday by declaring them paid holidays? Why is it that Christian hymns are sung every morning in public schools?” asked Nkaigwa.
The legislator said that the actions of the government were tantamount to hypocrisy as even members of Parliament were sworn in using the Holy Bible and many meetings conducted by government officials were preceded by prayers and sermons.
Reached for comment, Molepolole North MP Mohammed Khan, a Muslim, said he was worried about Nkaigwa’s stance because in Umbrella for Democratic Change, issues of religion and divinity were not of concern and that there were many critical issues that had to be discussed in Parliament.
Patrick Buzwanani Gunda, a constitutional lawyer, concurred with Batshu on the provision of section 11 of the Constitution, noting that there was no specific reference to Christianity. Regarding the declaration of Christian festivals as paid holidays, Gunda says that public holidays are made in terms of the Public Holidays Act (Chapter 03:07) of the Laws of Botswana.
“This is the legal basis upon which such holidays are declared and personally I think such a huge number of days are costly on commerce since out of 14 holidays, five of them are Christian- aligned and that may rightly or wrongly give an impression that we are, by conduct, a Christian State when we are not necessarily so,” explained Gunda.
Dr. Elizabeth Pulane Motswapong, a lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Botswana (UB) said the belief that Botswana could be declared a Christian State were based on assumptions that the majority of Batswana were supposedly Christians.
“If we are saying majority of Batswana are Christians what yardstick are we using to measure that? I am posing this question because if you look at what is on the ground, majority of Batswana subscribe to two religions namely African Traditional Religion and Christianity. I still want to maintain that Botswana is secular and should remain so because of the the dual membership that Batswana embrace and the undeniable fact that there are many advantages of being a secular society,” Dr Motswapong added.
She stated that the fact that the Constitution recognizes five Christian festivals was not enough to draw conclusions that Botswana was a Christian country and therefore should be declared as such.
“In addition, rites of passage such as death and marriage are conducted in Christian way, Christian rituals are employed most of the time in public gatherings and the Bible under oath is also very common resulting in some people like Nkaigwa mistaking Botswana to be a Christian country.
Dr Motswapong said all religions practised in Botswana have co-existed in perfect harmony for a very long time because of the accommodative nature of Batswana as a peace-loving nation and it was appropriate to view Botswana as an inclusive secular or pluralistic multi faith country.
Furthermore, she says that it is better to leave politics to politicians and not have religion play part in the running of the government warning that in counties where politics and religion have not been separated, the results have been chaotic.
“For the good of the country, it is better Botswana remains a secular state because, let us not forget that even Christianity is a colonial religion after all therefore it is foreign to Batswana,” concluded Motswapong.
The debate continued on Social Media
Meanwhile, the debate on the declaration of Botswana as a Christian State was trending on social media this week. These are some of the extracts from various Facebook posts and tweets: “I just want to puke when I hear people say that Botswana’s constitution is based on Christian doctrines,” tweeted Senwelo Modise.
“Most of those that support calls for Botswana to be declared a Christian State clearly have no idea of the implications. Life in a theocracy is no joke: soon thereafter, saying something that opposes Christianity and its deity will be declared blasphemy and you just might be jailed, practising other religions may be seen as something alien, Christian practices and symbols may now be forced upon oneself in public institutions and sex before marriage will be criminalized because it is against the dictates of the Bible. Let each practise as they wish, it is not the business of the state to declare religion on our behalf. If Christianity is compelling enough it will draw people to it and need no legislation that lumps people into it,” read Lawrence Ookeditse’s Facebook post.
“Nkaigwa want Botswana to be a theocratic state so that he convinces other religious leaders that he can be the president. That is akin to seeking political power through back door,” tweeted Kabelo Mhuriro.
“My honest view is that as Botswana is a secular state, its public schools should do away with this conservative practice of school assembly as they do not at all resonate with secularity. In fact these practices are a result of neo colonial missionaries who wanted to indoctrinate school going children by the virtue of having contributed to formal education,” Solly Rakgomo posted on Facebook.
“Majority of theocratic states like those in the Middle East are in chaos. Nkaigwa seems to be so obsessed with Christianity,” tweeted Pearl Kalasi.
“Nkaigwa is no way different from Donald Trump, he is fond of making irresponsible statements and he is divisive,” tweeted Mpho Kenosi.
“Majority of Batswana eat Halaal which is sold across many supermarkets yet they are not Muslims, and that is the essence of being a secular state, we embrace one another,” read Victoria Batleng’s Facebook post.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.