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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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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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