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Nkaigwa’s Christian State remarks blasted

Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkaigwa

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.

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Motamma Horatius on politics and motherhood

13th January 2021
motamma

While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.

Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.

Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.

After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.

“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.

“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”

The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.

While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age.  By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.

“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.

She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.

“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.

“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”

“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”

At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.

“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.

“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’

Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.

Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.

According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).

The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.

Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.

Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.

According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.

According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.

These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.

As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.

Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.

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Gov’t imposes austerity as financial year closes

11th January 2021
President Masisi

Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.

In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.

“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.

The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021.
It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.

“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.

The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”

The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.

With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.

When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).

However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).

Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”

Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.

The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.

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BDP readies for Congress

11th January 2021
BDP congress

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely.
However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.

Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.

Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.

President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.

According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.

The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.

With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made.
The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.

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