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In Support of Tshireletso: Ethics and Morality can never be frozen in time

In recent weeks several newspapers have carried news to the effect that Asst. Minister Botlogile Tshireletso supports the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution and abortion. If that is true, then I laud Ms. Tshireletso for being one of our few Political leaders to think out of the box. Our laws regarding these matters are based on out-dated European/ English laws, that in turn are based on outdated Christian approaches.

The world has moved on since our society’s first contact with Europeans and Missionaries in the 19th century; the Christian principles and practices they brought here at that time have undergone tremendous changes in their own countries.

They arrived here at the time when the Enlightenment was getting fully established in Europe. That resulted in Christianity in Europe giving up a lot of its primitive Christian traditions and its medieval practices. For example, there are no longer people burnt at the stake as “heretics”, capital punishment has all but disappeared in Western Europe, with a few exceptions safe abortion is now the norm, commercial sex work is generally decriminalized and legally regulated hence ensuring its practitioners are protected by the law, and same sex relationships are also accepted by law.


Christianity has a long history of evolution and change. The Christianity we practice now has little in common with the Christianity that formed after Jesus’s crucifixion in or around the year 30 CE. Jesus was a committed Jew; he was born and died a Jew, and participated in all the works of the covenant- circumcision, the dietary laws, observing the Sabbath and the festivals, and performing Temple rituals. That is why some historians do not subscribe to the view that Jesus founded Christianity.

That credit usually falls to Paul, who was initially a Pharisee, persecuting followers of Jesus, but a few years after Jesus’s crucifixion was converted to be his follower. It is only in the 40s in Antioch that followers of Jesus started to be called Christians, and from then on the Jesus Movement slowly broke away from Judaism.

“Christ” is actually not part of Jesus’s name; it is derived from the Greek word Christos, meaning ‘the anointed’, itself a translation from the Aramaic word Meshiach, which we call Messiah (Aramaic is the language that was spoken in Palestine during Jesus’s time). Paul popularized the use of ‘Christ’ as a name.


When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, only two Jewish sects from the late Second Temple period survived – the Pharisees and the followers of the Jesus Movement (the other main sects were the Essenes and the Sadducees). After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, while the Pharisees carried forward Judaism from being a Temple cult to being the Rabbinical Judaism we know today, the Jesus Movement slowly broke away from Judaism to become Christianity. This was because Jews generally did not accept Jesus as the expected Messiah, and more gentiles were converted to the new movement, resulting in Christianity becoming essentially a movement of the gentiles.


The first three hundred years of Christianity were tumultuous, full of controversies, such as the Arian controversy that lasted into the 5th century. Jesus himself had not left any writing.  Paul’s authentic letters were really the first writings of Christianity, written between 50 and 60 CE, 20-30 years after Jesus’s crucifixion. 

There are seven of these authentic letters, namely, 1st Thessalonians, Galatians, 1st Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 2nd Corinthians and Romans (in the order they were written). In his letters, Paul was actually responding to issues raised by the congregations he had started; he was not writing scripture. But early Christians found in Paul’s letters good guidance to Christian principles, and adopted them as scripture.

The other letters attributed to him, but which historians do not believe were written by him, such as Ephesians, Colossians, 2nd Thessalonians and the pastoral letters to Titus and Timothy, were written probably after his death which occurred in the early 60s. The four Canonical Gospels were written from about 70 CE, with the one attributed to Mark being the first one around 70 CE, followed by Matthew and Luke probably in the 80s and John in the 90s.


Early Christians or founding fathers used Paul a lot in the formulation of Christian theology. In the first centuries there were many Christianities, not one. Since Jesus had left no written guidance, many groups of Christians were formed with different theologies. For example, a major issue was Jesus Christ’s nature. Essentially, the question regarded his Christology; was Jesus fully God, was he fully Man, or was he something in between? Each view had a lot of supporters: some thought Jesus was God and not Man, some thought he was Man but not God, some thought he was both God and Man.

Some thought he was God who just took on a human body that was not real. There were other groups such as Gnostics and Marcionites. Eventually the group that thought he was fully God and fully Man won, not from merit of argument, but from garnering the support of the Emperors of the Roman Empire. This group came to be known historically as the proto-Orthodox group, because they eventually became the Orthodox group that took over the Church, what became the Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the East.

They articulated the concept of the Trinity as we know it now, confirmed at the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon in the 4th century. The other groups disappeared because of vicious repression, including the burning of their books and literature. The Western Church, the Catholic Church, was under the Pope (the Roman Pontiff) and under the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Orthodox Church was under the Patriarch in Constantinople, which was also the seat of the Eastern Empire. The two operated for centuries as one Church, but in the 11th Century, the rivalry between the Western and Eastern Churches and their Pontiffs, burst into the open, resulting in the Schism of 1054.


Christianity has always had different groups with contending views in theology. From the early founding fathers such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Justin and others, there were always big points of argument. While Christology, the nature of Jesus Christ, dominated the contentions, human sexuality was always a point of argument too. Coming from Judaism, Christianity based its sexual morality on the first three of Chapters Genesis, the story of creation and the fall.

The Biblical legend of creation consists of two stories, one starting from Genesis 1:26 up to 2:3, and the other starting from Genesis 2:7 to the end of the Chapter (verse 25). God is said to have told humans to increase and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  After the second creation story, the Bible then states that a man is supposed to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, the two forming one flesh (Gen. 2:24).


God is said to have planted a garden eastward in Eden, and put his created humans there, giving them freedom to eat all trees except one- the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then, according to Genesis, Eve (the female), was tempted by the snake to eat the fruit of the tree they had been instructed not to eat as they would die if they ate it. The snake told Eve that they would not die if they ate it, instead they would be wise like the gods, knowing good and evil. She is the one that persuaded Adam to also partake of this fruit. This resulted in their falling out with God, and being chased out of Eden.

God is said to have given them a rather grim picture of the future, saying to Eve “ I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children,  yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”;  and saying to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which  I commanded you,  “you shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall  eat of it all the days of your life;…..By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it your were taken;….” (Gen. 3:16-19).


Later fathers of Christianity, notably Augustine in the early 5th century, used this story to conceive something called Original Sin. According to that concept, every human is born with the sin, having inherited it from the first couple, and it passing from generation to generation through semen!; and it is only removed by baptism. And according to this same concept, man is inherently sinful and cannot control his sexual desire. Augustine is credited by historians with being the most influential of the church theologians. His view of Original Sin strongly influenced the Church’s policies and traditions. His views on death and nature were also very influential, although they were at odds with what is now known.


This story of the fall of the first two humans from Paradise has shaped Judeo-Christian attitudes to sex since it was formulated, and these attitudes have been very influential in modern attitudes to sex generally. Unfortunately some of the early fathers of the Church blamed the woman for the whole fall- she is the one who was a temptress and treacherous, and the snake went to her knowing this, the snake representing the devil.

This was unfortunately translated into human sexuality- the forbidden fruit was interpreted by many of the early writers as sex. Judaism went on to set up an elaborate set of rules governing marriage and sexual relations between men and women, making sex outside marriage virtually punishable by death, under the name of adultery. According to them, sex was strictly for procreation, and the man and woman had to be married, even though the man could have more than one wife.

The man could divorce the woman, especially if the woman could not conceive! Jesus is quoted in the Synoptic Gospels as having talked against divorce when asked a question about it by the Pharisees. However the story of Adam, Eve and the Serpent, was largely influential in promoting and entrenching sexism and patriarchy.


Christianity was a further development on these rules. In the first three hundred years after Jesus’s crucifixion, Christianity spread quite fast in the Roman Empire, despite it being persecuted sporadically in various places. At different periods and in different localities, just professing to be a Christian was enough to get one sentenced to death, hence the emergence of martyrdom.

Yet Christianity spread quite relentlessly through Syria, Greece, Asia Minor, to Rome itself, after the pioneering work of Paul and other workers. How did it achieve that? Historians believe that the most determining factor was the social support it gave its converts. As stated earlier, the spread was mainly in gentiles; Jewish converts to Christianity remained few, and virtually dried up after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE. They were referred to as Ebionites and Nazarenes.


Christians became reputable for looking after the poor, including giving them good funerals. They formed strong support networks and did not discriminate against slaves, women or those from low social classes, whereas society in the Roman Empire was very stratified socially. Christians also propagated sexual behaviour and morals carried over from their Jewish origins but modified and made stronger. Monogamy was the norm; adultery was highly condemned as can be seen from Paul’s Epistles and from the Canonical Gospels. Practices that were generally accepted in the Empire, such as homosexuality, infant exposure for unwanted babies, abortion and prostitution, were condemned by Christianity.


When Christianity became the official religion of the Empire after it was embraced by Emperor Constantine in the early 300s, Christianity experienced a large number of converts from the pagan religions that had been the norm in the Empire. So Christian sexual practices progressively became the norm in the Empire, both the Western and Eastern branches.

Even after the fall of the Western Empire to the “Barbarians” in the fifth century, Christianity marched on, converting the conquerors themselves, so that Europe became Christian, hence the word Christendom. European civilization is therefore Christian based. It means that the whole West accepted Christian sexual mores, and these mores and other cultural and religious mores evolved into what is now known as Western culture and civilization. This civilization has evolved with time, through such phases as the Renaissance, the Christian Reformation, the Enlightenment and Modernity.


By our adoption of Christianity and Democracy as conceived in the West, we have actually become part of the Western culture whose development was based on Christianity. Our behaviour however suggests that in some aspects we are frozen in time, we are sticking to things that came to us early in the Enlightenment, which is the period when Missionaries and Europeans reached us. For example, while we profess to be a secular State, the churches try very hard to influence decisions at State level on the basis of their religious beliefs that should be individual choices.

Homosexuality is a personal matter and should remain so, unless of course it is related to rape or abuse of minors. In the same manner while we should not as a State encourage commercial sex work, we should not treat prostitutes as criminals. They should have access to health care to deal with their special risks and should enjoy protection against physical and sexual abuse. Abortion should similarly be a personal choice, and those in need of it should have access to safe abortion performed professionally. The Western countries, which brought Christianity to us have moved on; they don’t jail prostitutes and homosexuals; safe medical abortion is available to their people who need it, and they don’t hang murderers.


Christianity is a religion that was conceived by humans, and it has evolved as human culture and civilizations have evolved. And remember there are different Christianities even now- Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant (Lutheran, Reformed, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists etc.), Pentecostal, African Independent Churches and others. There are theological differences between these groups- their approaches to subjects like abortion, prostitution and homosexuality usually differ substantially.


This is why if indeed Minister Tshireletso is being correctly quoted, that prostitution should be decriminalized and abortion be legalized, she has my support. Our society has to move on!

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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