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Pastors develop cold feet on challenging new law

Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu

An assemblage of enraged pastors who had earlier this year vowed to approach the High court to challenge the constitutionality of the Societies Amendment Bill after the president Lt. Gen. Ian Khama signed it into substantive law have now developed cold feet on the matter.

WeekendPost has established that the pastors, who had already roped-in a constitutional lawyer Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole and Company, are said to be not forthcoming and are fostering the theory that they might have abandoned the impending court case.

Previously the ‘men of God’ strongly opposed the bill and maintained that should Khama sign the bill, they would immediately encounter the law by moving an application before the courts to challenge it.

It is understood that the pastors have since kept a low profile and not followed on their vow, although due to unclear circumstances. The clergymen have remained anonymous for fear of being victimized by the government or whoever. When asked on the matter, the attorney representing the pastors, Motswagole confirmed to this publication that it’s indeed true that the priests had “grown cold feet” but it’s unclear why so.

Information reaching this publication suggests that President Khama has already assented to the bill and it’s now substantive law. This comes after the bill, clouded with controversy whereby legislator for Francistown West Ignatious Moswaane broke his sunglasses to illustrate protest against the proposed law while another representing Sefhare Ramokgonami Dorcas Makgato threatened to strip naked if the law did not pass, was debated extensively by parliament. The bill has however been passed by the National Assembly.

“Now since the bill has gone through all the structures and procedures in place, it has been gazetted and the president has also signed it to become substantive law,” a source at the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) under the Department of Civil and National Registration confirmed to WeekendPost this week.

Previously, the Societies Act prescribed the minimum number of persons for the formation and registration of a society at ten (10). As it stands, the number of persons required in the enacted law for registering a society under the bill has thus been upstretched from 10 to 20, and that of religious organisations from 10 to a whopping 250.

The number 250, together with a few other sections is said to be at odds with the church ministers and their sympathisers. They insist that it impedes and breaches on the fundamental freedom of religion and is therefore unconstitutional.

This publication has it on good authority that the new law will be operationalized next month – on September 1 – to be precise. It is understood that the Ministry is currently reviewing regulations.

“We are currently discussing the Act first with stakeholders before we operationalize it, as you know, the law is debated by parliament, then it adopts it, and the president signs it and later it is gazetted for two consecutive times and further consultations are made and then Act is implemented.”

According to the Ministry official under the department, this week they met with various stakeholders from different Societies affected by the new Act including churches to consult them further through workshops subsequent to the Act approval by parliament and assenting by President Khama.

Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu had, when presenting the bill to parliament, said that “the amendment was necessitated by ‘mushrooming’ of churches, particularly under foreign leadership who appeared to be ‘economic missionaries’ attracted by the economic status of this country.”

According to Batshu, there was also a concern with regard to splinter churches that emerged due to struggles for leadership positions and control of church assets as well as finances.

Meanwhile it is understood that Minister Batshu’s locus – and by extension the new law – has not gone down well with the some church movements such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) which publicly denounced the law as a ‘not-so-good’ law. The umbrella body of Pentecostal and evangelical or ‘fire churches’ is seen as widely targeted by the law.

According to EFB president, Master Matlhaope, they opposed not the law in its entirety but some of the sections in the new law like the one which raises the threshold number of 250 from the previous 10 to register a church.

“It will stop even genuine churches to register,” he pointed out. “We felt 250 was too high to register a church, and it will encourage unlawful operations. To raise that 250, you mobilise people and you may end up assembling illegally. We had requested the government to re-look at this area, but they did not.”

Matlhaope also highlighted that there was need for a religious advisory council which will educate, empower and therefore mitigate the impact as far as mushrooming of churches is concerned. Right now, he said there is lack of strong regulatory mechanism.

He insisted that the law needed thorough minds to be applied and not emotions. Although the EFB president condemned those churches and men of God lacking integrity and those commercializing the churches, he asserted that in the end he stands for freedom of worship.

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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

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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