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Pastors threaten Khama with court action

Irate pastors have threatened to take President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama to court, should he sign the recently passed Societies Amendment Bill into law. The bill, which was this week passed by parliament, imposes a threshold of more than 250 people to legally register a church organisation – a section which the pastors are against among others.

WeekendPost has established that the enraged ‘men of God’ who are a concoction of various church movements have made a decision that if Khama pens his signature to the bill, they would go the courtroom way.  

The pastors, who prefer not to be named at this stage have already approached and engaged a constitutional lawyer, Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole & Company to prepare for the application of a court case subsequent to the president’s signature. Motswagole confirmed in an interview with this publication on Thursday that indeed he has been engaged by some pastors who oppose the Societies Amendment bill.

Motswagole stated that what warranted the waiting was the understanding that the bill becomes a substantive law only after the president signs it.

WeekendPost understands that the president is not subjected to any time frame and/or deadline in signing bills that have been passed by national assembly, but instead could sign it at any given time. “It will depend on the president to turn the bill into law and that’s when will we move the application,” Motswagole firmly stated.

According to Motswagole, the pastors disagree with a number of clauses in the bill including the 250 threshold that is required for an establishment of God’s church. “We will argue that the clause that makes it mandatory for a church to register with 250 members breaches the freedom of religion.”

He said: “It also puts an extra condition on how they should exercise their freedom of religion and thereby puts on an extra layer provided to in the constitution and therefore we believe it’s unconstitutional,” Motswagole asserted.

The Societies Act prescribes the minimum number of persons for the formation and registration of society at ten (10). The number of persons required for registering a society under the bill has thus been raised from 10 to 20, and that of religious organisations from 10 to 250.

WeekendPost can confirm that the pastors also approached the outspoken Evangelist Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) on the development, and since they have a known stance of opposing the bill before even it was tabled at parliament, they unreservedly hailed the move.  

EFB is an umbrella organisation of ‘fire churches’ in Botswana and its member churches are said to be targeted by the bill – as they encompass many prophets of foreign nationals and also have been growing in the country like veldt fire.

“The mushrooming of churches, particularly under foreign leadership who have appeared to be ‘economic missionaries’ attracted by the economic status of this country necessitated the bill,” pointed out the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu, when presenting the bill before parliament and outlining the key issues that emerged and influenced the amendment of the Act.

Counsel Motswagole also stressed that the clause that specifically deals with foreigners is tantamount to breach of the right of foreigners in Botswana as well as their right to freedom of religion.

According to Batshu, the amendment bill was also necessitated by “splinter churches that have emerged and influenced by struggles for leadership positions and control of church assets and finances.”

Meanwhile, another church organisation, Botswana Council of Churches are said to be ‘fine’ with the current bill and are not part of the disgruntled pastors who have been left with no option but to pursue Khama at court after signing the bill and ask for its scrapping.

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Batswana owe banks P79 billion

27th March 2023

The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.

Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.

“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.

She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.

On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.

It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.

Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.

According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.

Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.

“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.

She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.

“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.  Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.

He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.

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How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor

27th March 2023

The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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