Government has taken a strong decision to control the multiplication by way of registration of new churches by amending the Societies Act. According to the latest government gazette, a new church will require 250 members to register. This is a steep increase from the previous fuigure of ten (10). Evangelical churches argue that the new figure is unreasonable and almost impossible to achieve.
The government has gazetted the decision, this followed lenghthy consultation process with stakeholders. Other societies other than churches will now need a minimum of twenty members (20) to register from the previous ten while churches will need 250 or more. It is understood that the move is calculated to remedy the government’s failed attempt to regulate and monitor societies.
The Societies Act has all along recognised a society as any club, company, partnership or association of 10 or more persons, whatever its nature or objects. The move by the government intends to curb too many breakaways, mushrooming of churches and widespread reports of pastors who preach false gospel for commercial reasons.
Of the three Umbrella bodies representing the church in Botswana, two agree with the government decision while one, the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) posits that the decision by the government to increase the registration eligibility number from 10 to 250 is not only unreasonable but also impractical – hence a constitutional infringement on the people’s freedom of religion and association. A new church, they say, cannot have 250 members when even long-existing churches do not have that number.
They are saying they are still considering taking legal action to challenge the decision at the courts. The church body, it is understood, met with their lawyers on Wednesday to discuss the issue. EFB president, Rev Master Matlhaope said he was not ready to comment on the issue.
The Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), president, Tebogo Motlhagodi said they together as the churches Umbrella bodies proposed the change to the government. “We proposed the issue to the government together with that one of a religious council to cover matters of the gospel because it was clear that the government was failing alone,” he said.
Motlhagodi stressed that his churches no longer want any new church registered as there are enough churches for the nation to attend. “In the churches I lead we have over 600 congregations, EFB has over 500 and the same applies to mainline churches. What more do people want,” he charged.
His views are shared by Botswana Council of Churches leader, Rev Mpho Moruakgomo who says the move is intended to curb unnecessary breakaways among other things. He however concurs with EFB that the increase in number might make it difficult and impossible to register a new church. “We will be there watching, if we learn that it is difficult to register new churches we will after some time summon the government and review the decision,” said the BCC president.
Should EFB challenge the decision, observers say the case may have similarities with that of the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) against government where the state may be forced to register a movement or organisation by the courts.
Renowned University of Botswana academic, Rev Dr.Obed Kealotswe commended the government’s decision saying it was long overdue.
“Three years back I was invited by BTV with my colleague Rev Dumie Mualefe. We made a very strong recommendation that one way by which the proliferation of churches could be controlled is by separating the registration of churches from that of ordinary societies. I had recommended at least a hundred people instead of ten members,” he said.
He said: “If the Government has recommended 250, as long as measures will be put in place to make sure that unregistered churches are monitored since they are the ones which bring many problems to the Christian and non- Christian communities in Botswana.”
However, he said the government should take note of the fact that there are some other world religions which are not Christian. “Members of such faiths could not be as many as those of the Christian faith. Some provision should be provided for such faiths. As a conclusion, I wholeheartedly support the amendment,” he said.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.