Water in "Fire" churches
Mogotsi D. Baloyi
In the 1997 movie, "Anaconda," there is a scene where the ferry transporting the expedition team deep into the Amazon to study the elusive Shirishama Indians, comes to an artificial barrier mid-river.
John Sarone, an enigmatic and colorful character played by Jon Voight, whose trade was trapping live anacondas, proposed blowing up the barrier with dynamite so as to greatly reduce the distance to the hospital to which they were carrying one of the team members.
As Gary, played by Owen Wilson, was helping Sarone tie dynamite sticks to the barrier, he suddenly reacted to something moving beneath the water. "There's something in the water," said he. "Yes, there is," replied Sarone. "There is something in the water."
I want to take up my discourse this week from that simple statement made by a startled character in a movie, the response to which was, "Yes, there is." There is something in the water. There has to be, if the ubiquity of water usage in religion is anything to go by.
However, for my submission, I will preoccupy myself not with water employment in religion as a whole, but only within the commonly termed Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement, lately derisively called in these parts of the world as "Fire" Churches. You won't be long in these Churches before you come across the use of water – from drinking, to spraying, to bathing, and everything else in-between.
This water can be "normal" water in a bottle or any container, to specially branded water in bottles of varying sizes and sometimes each labeled for specific uses. The packaged water is typically still water. I'm not aware of the use of sparkling water, although you must expect anything these days.
But I digress. Now, this water comes under many names, the most common being, "anointing water," popularized and introduced into the Pentecostal-Charismatic mainstream by Nigerian Prophet, Temitope Balogun Joshua of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations. Other names are, "holy water," which is perhaps the oldest name for it, and also, "living water." These are the most common names of water used in "Fire" Churches.
This, as I have mentioned, is your typical bottled water you can find at your local supermarket. Nothing fancy. Water is water. The only difference is that it is rebranded with either the picture of the "Prophet," his title, the name of his organization, and sometimes a scripture verse, and intended usage and instructions. For those who want to add a touch of exclusivity, the whole bottling and packaging is done by the Church organization.
And still for those who want to bury the competition, the water would be said to be imported straight from the River Jordan in Israel! Game over to the competition. You can't beat that. Water from the River Jordan, in which Naaman was cleansed, is the Real McCoy! Most Catholics are familiar with the practice of entering their church, dipping the finger(s) of their right hand in the font with holy water, and making the Sign of the Cross. Catholics repeat this ritual upon leaving the church.
The holy water in the font is "holy" only insofar as it has been blessed (or sanctified) by a priest. The water itself is not magic. Its power depends on the prayers, faith and devotion of the person who uses it. The Catholics believe that making the Sign of the Cross with holy water, one expresses faith in God as Father, God as Son, and God as Holy Spirit and asks God's blessing in the name of the same three divine persons.
This ritual action of blessing oneself also serves as a reminder of one's baptism. Water, itself, has a long association with God's saving deeds. With water all things are washed and nourished. Water is a life giving source for all of nature and vegetation. Water flowed from the rock as God's gift to the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings. The water of the Red Sea was divided to liberate God's people from slavery.
Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan. He came walking on the water to calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Ritual washings were required for the Jewish people before entering the temple; and, of course, this prefigured baptism. In the theology of the Catholic Church, holy water is considered as sacramental as are crucifixes, medals, pictures of saints, rosaries, ashes and palms. Only when blessed are these to be thought of as holy.
The Catholic Church also views as holy candles, Bibles, ashes and palms that are blessed. All such "blessed" objects are to be treated with reverence and respect; and when they are broken or damaged or no longer usable, they are to be disposed of by pouring into a special hand basin in the sacristy (sacrarium) or buried but never thrown into the garbage. It is believed that the use of holy water dates to the first century, and even some sources relate its early usage to St. Matthew, although written documentation about its usage date to the third or fourth century.
In the Catholic Tradition, holy water is used for the purpose of baptisms, blessing of persons, places and objects, or as protection against evil and danger. Holy water is also used by the priest to sprinkle the congregation during the entrance rite of the Mass.
It is used by priests when blessing homes, animals, places of business, automobiles, and objects of devotion such as medals, rosaries, etc. But how and why did the Pentecostals and Charismatics join the water brigade? Why the fascination and preoccupation with water from the very people who, not too long ago, bashed and mocked traditional Africanist Churches for using water?
As recently as the late '90s, followers of "Fire" Churches would never be caught dead using water as a faith medium. It was looked down upon, and those "garment" Churches that used water were the butt of jokes and subjects of ridicule. Fast-forward to this decade and "Fire" Churches churn more liters of water per day than all these "Water" Churches combined per month! I lie not! There are some Churches where entire warehouses hold thousands of gallons of water, ready to be blessed, and ready to be sold to the thirsty and desperate throngs.
Some Churches generate considerable revenue from water sales alone. With the right marketing strategy, a man of God can become a wealthy water distribution entrepreneur wielding a Bible as a front. Water bottles easily outsell Bibles, books, tapes, CDs, and any other materials combined! Yes, Gary, there is something in the water. But what is it that's in the water?
Why are Churches known for their emphasis and screams and shouts of "fire" now neck-deep in water? Aren't fire and water incompatible? Or we are now deep into physics whereby we argue that water is a by-product of fire since it is a result of the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen molecules? Fire! Why the about-turn from condemning water to leading the pack in its usage in faith matters? I don't purport to have the answers, but I'll throw in my two cents' worth. You see, water is a basic requirement of and for life. In their deep space quest for signs of life, for instance, NASA almost invariably look for ice caps (water).
The premise is obvious. If there is a presence of water on a planetary body, then it scientifically follows that life can be supported. The very world we live in, according to the Genesis account, emerged on Creation morning out of water. Genesis 1:1-2 KJV  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Science tells us that our human body is made up of about 70% water. In other words, more than half of our constitution is water-based. Is it a wonder therefore that we should be so easily responsive to water? I think not. So, even before the importation of religion, we are biologically wired to be at home around water. Indeed, before we are even born, our essence is crafted and subsists in a watery world called the amniotic sac. In other words, we were formed in water. Water phobias and general avoidance of water later on in life are learned habits, completely unnatural.
I posit that this major role of water in the human body is the building block giving rise to the religious use of water for supernatural purposes. Not that this is itself strange. Not in the least. Throughout the Bible, water plays a major role in the narrative.
The first universal judgment was through the employment of water. Moses, whose very name means, "drawn from water," a huge personality in the Bible, was rescued from the waters of the Nile River. Running as a fugitive from Egypt, he met some women, one of whom was later to become his wife, at a well in the land of Midian.
His plagues of Egypt aside, perhaps his greatest feat of supernatural power was the parting of the Red Sea, a huge water body. En-route to the promised land, he "cured" the bitter waters at Marah. Exodus 15:23-25 KJV  And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?  And he cried unto the Lord ; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them…
Such was the prominence of the water theme in Moses' life that his career, one that began in the water, so to speak, also ended around a water issue. The Bible says that when he was instructed to speak to the rock so that the water can gush out, he struck it in anger. In displeasure at Moses' disobedience, God told him he would not enter the Promised Land. Throughout the Old Testament, the water theme features prominently with the acts of God and the presence of God.
Psalm 29:3 KJV  The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters. Psalm 77:19 KJV  Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Jeremiah 2:13 KJV  For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Ezekiel 47:1-4 KJV  Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. 
Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. 
And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles.  Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees.
Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Zechariah 14:8 KJV  And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. God likened the life He gives to water. It should come as no surprise therefore that water is being used in faith cycles as a symbol of water. In John 5, the waters of the Pool of Bethesda were like a hospital.
Wholesale masses of the infirm and invalid would be cured upon entering the pool after an angel stirred up the waters. It mattered not what the affliction was; the angel stirred waters would heal. Whether the stirring of the angel made the water "holy" or "anointed" is a debate for another day. It is from texts like these, that the use of water is promoted.
Used as a faith medium, it is preached and hoped that the user will naturally identify with the life-giving nature of water and its refreshing abilities to give his or her faith a boost. In other words, the water medium would play the role of a visual aid to assist one's faith.
Unfortunately, there's a fine line between a visual aid and an idol. In fact, aren't idols visual aids to begin with? Aren't idols visible representations of invisible realities? As such, aren't they visual aids? But that's another argument for another day. The point being driven home is that, for those who are sincere, or who claim a divine revelation or instruction to introduce water in their Churches, water is used as a symbol of life.
Where there is decay, sickness, struggle, oppression, poverty, and all other human or demonic vices, the introduction of water as a faith prop is supposed to bring in supernatural intervention. It's a slippery slope, I know. But it works. Although it can be argued that it's not the water that works per se but one's faith.
Many years ago as a little boy, I accompanied a man on a strange mission. I understood that he was a "water diviner." His mission was to go prospecting for water from underground aquifers. Now, this man had nothing scientific to go about his mission in the form of equipment or any obvious tools. The only thing he had, curiously, was a stick.
Yes, a thin, dry twig you can find anywhere, although I doubt his was any old stick as I was to later discover. There was nothing eventful about our quest as I followed quietly behind. All of a sudden, he started to tremble and shake violently! His stick seemed to assume a life of its own and wiggled and wriggled in his hands like the tail of an excited Jack Russell! The man was sweating profusely! I was both awed and petrified at this spectacle.
Clearly, something beyond the natural was at play and I had a front row seat to the whole thing. "There is a lot of water here!" He panted breathlessly, to me and to himself and to no one in particular. I got to understand that his "divining rod" helped him locate where subterranean waters were. The stick would point this way and that way, and he would follow. Where the stick pointed, there he went.
This went on for a few minutes until he had satisfied himself and finally there was calm again. Mission accomplished. That afternoon, his violent reaction was testimony to the fact that there was plenty of water underneath our feet.
It demonstrated that not only was there water, but there was plenty of it. His stick and his body reacted to the presence of the water. How? I don't know. I don't know whether what I witnessed that afternoon falls under science, physics (or metaphysics), or religion. But it doesn't fall under fiction. Yes, there is something in the water.
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Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry
The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.
Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.
Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.
This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.
Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.
On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.
Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.
Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth. Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.
Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana
Brands are important
So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why? Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.
A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.
Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.
Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.
Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand. Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.
So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :
Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.
Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.
The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.
So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.
There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.
But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel. A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.
Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.
Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.
The case for Botswana to ratify the ACDEG
The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) is the most comprehensive dataset measuring African governance performance through a wide range of 81 indicators under the categories of Security & Rule of law, Participation, Rights & Inclusion, Foundations of Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. It employs scores, expressed out of 100, which quantify a country’s performance for each governance measure and ranks, out of 54, in relation to the 54 African countries.
The 2022 IIAG Overall Governance score is 68.1 and ranks Botswana at number 5 in Africa. In 2019 Botswana was ranked 2nd with an overall score of 73.3. That is a sharp decline. The best-performing countries are Mauritius, Seychelles, Tunisia, and Cabo Verde, in that order. A glance at the categories shows that Botswana is in third place in Africa on the Security and Rule of law; ninth in the Participation, Rights & Inclusion Category – indicating a shrinking participatory environment; eighth for Foundations of Economic Opportunity category; and fifth in the Human Development category.
The 2022 IIAG comes to a sweeping conclusion: Governments are less accountable and transparent in 2021 than at any time over the last ten years; Higher GDP does not necessarily indicate better governance; rule of law has weakened in the last five years; Democratic backsliding in Africa has accelerated since 2018; Major restrictions on freedom of association and assembly since 2012. Botswana is no exception to these conclusions. In fact, a look at the 10-year trend shows a major challenge. While Botswana remains in the top 5 of the best-performing countries in Africa, there are signs of decline, especially in the categories of Human Development and Security & Rule of law.
I start with this picture to show that Botswana is no longer the poster child for democracy, good governance, and commitment to the rule of law that it once was. In fact, to use the term used in the IIAG, Botswana is experiencing a “democratic backsliding.”
The 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) had Botswana at 55/ 100, the lowest ever score recorded by Botswana dethroning Botswana as Africa’s least corrupt country to a distant third place, where it was in 2019 with a CPI of 61/100. (A score closer to zero denotes the worst corrupt and a score closer to 100 indicates the least corrupt country). The concern here is that while other African states are advancing in their transparency and accountability indexes, Botswana is backsliding.
The Transitional National Development Plan lists participatory democracy, the rule of law, transparency, and accountability, as key “deliverables,” if you may call those deliverables. If indeed Botswana is committed to these principles, she must ratify the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance (ACDEG).
The African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance is the African Union’s principal policy document for advancing democratic governance in African Union member states. The ACDEG embodies the continent’s commitment to a democratic agenda and set the standards upon which countries agreed to be held accountable. The Charter was adopted in 2007 and came into force a decade ago, in 2012.
Article 2 of the Charter details its objectives among others as to a) Promote adherence, by each State Party, to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights; b) Promote and protect the independence of the judiciary; c) Promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs; d) Promote gender balance and equality in the governance and development processes.
The Charter emphasizes certain principles through which member states must uphold: Citizen Participation, Accountable Institutions, Respect for Human Rights, Adherence to the principles of the Rule of Law, Respect for the supremacy of the constitution and constitutional order, Entrenchment of democratic Principles, Separation of Powers, Respect for the Judiciary, Independence and impartiality of electoral bodies, best practice in the management of elections. These are among the top issues that Batswana have been calling for, that they be entrenched in the new Constitution.
The ACDEG is a revolutionary document. Article 3 of the ACDEG, sets guidance on the principles that must guide the implementation of the Charter among them: Effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in the governance of public affairs; Promotion of a system of government that is representative; Holding of regular, transparent, free and fair elections; Separation of powers; Promotion of gender equality in public and private institutions and others.
Batswana have been calling for laws that make it mandatory for citizen participation in public affairs, more so, such calls have been amplified in the just-ended “consultative process” into the review of the Constitution of Botswana. Many scholars, academics, and Batswana, in general, have consistently made calls for a constitution that provides for clear separation of powers to prevent concentration of power in one branch, in Botswana’s case, the Executive, and provide for effective checks and balances. Other countries, like Kenya, have laws that promote gender equality in public and private institutions inscribed in their constitutions. The ACDEG could be a useful advocacy tool for the promotion of gender equality.
Perhaps more relevant to Botswana’s situation now is Article 10 of the Charter. Given how the constitutional review process unfolded, the numerous procedural mistakes and omissions, the lack of genuine consultations, the Charter principles could have provided a direction, if Botswana was party to the Charter. “State Parties shall ensure that the process of amendment or revision of their constitution reposes on national consensus, obtained, if need be, through referendum,” reads part of Article 10, giving clear clarity, that the Constitution belong to the people.
With the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance in hand, ratified, and also given the many shortfalls in the current constitution, Batswana can have a tool in hand, not only to hold the government accountable but also a tool for measuring aspirations and shortfalls of our governance institutional framework.
Botswana has not signed, nor has it acceded or ratified the ACDEG. The time to ratify the ACDEG is now. Our Movement, Motheo O Mosha Society, with support from the Democracy Works Foundation and The Charter Project Africa, will run a campaign to promote, popularise and advocate for the ratification of the Charter (#RatifytheCharter Campaign). The initiative is co-founded by the European Union. The Campaign is implemented with the support of our sister organizations: Global Shapers Community – Gaborone Hub, #FamilyMeetingBW, Botswana Center for Public Integrity, Black Roots Organization, Economic Development Forum, Molao-Matters, WoTech Foundation, University of Botswana Political Science Society, Young Minds Africa and Branding Akosua.
Ratifying the Charter would reaffirm Botswana’s commitment to upholding strong democratic values, and respect for constitutionalism, and promote the rule of law and political accountability. Join us in calling the Government of Botswana to #RatifyTheCharter.
*Morena MONGANJA is the Chairperson of Motheo O Mosha society; a grassroots movement advocating for a new Constitution for Botswana. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp 77 469 362.