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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 Our laws regarding these matters are based on out-dated European/ English laws, that in turn are based on outdated Christian approaches.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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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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