Churches under the auspices of Evangelist Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) are lobbying the government to appeal a High Court judgment which recently ordered that Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) be allowed to legally register their association.
Initially the association was denied registration by the Registry of Societies under the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) on grounds that homosexuality is illegal in Botswana. The ministry refused to register the association on the basis that the Botswana Constitution does not recognise homosexuals and that the objectives of the intended organization are contrary to Section 7 (2) of the Societies Act.
Following the judgment, EFB took a position to pressurise the government to appeal the ruling in which the High Court Judge Justice Rannowane’s ruled that LEGABIBO be allowed to register. EFB’s stand is that: “the judgment is injurious to Godly norms, values, priceless principles, and indeed a relegation of the Christian norms and Tswana customs to the peripheries.”
The applicants in the LEGABIBO case, Thuto Rammoge and 19 others took the matter to court seeking a declaration that the decision of the Ministry to refuse the registration of LEGABIBO was in contravention of section 13 of the constitution in so far as the said decision has the effect hindering the applicants in their freedom to assemble and associate.
The president of EFB, Pastor Master Obololetswe Matlhaope told the Weekend Post in an interview this week that they are against the judgment as it is likely to cause a spin in an acceleration of moral deterioration and moral bankruptcy which will add to the already burden of lawlessness and social ills bedeviling our schools.
“We are aware that the judgment does not decriminalize homosexuality however, ordering the registration of LEGABIBO whose objects are to advocate for recognition and protection of homosexuality is a hammer to our society’s moral conscience,” the outspoken Pastor stated.
With regard to facing any defiance from LEGABIBO itself and Botswana Network on Ethics, law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) while executing the controversial plan of lobbying government to appeal, the EFB President highlighted that in discharging their objectives they are guided by unshakeable values of being assertive and candor to God mandated course.
“One of our objectives as EFB is to sensitize the nation on trends of emerging spiritual challenges, likely to undermine scriptural foundations of the gospel and to be a prophetic voice of the nation,” he stressed.
When Matlhaope was quizzed if the churches, by advocating against LEGABIBO’s objective of campaigning for equal rights and decriminalisation of same sex relations, actually disregard essential human rights like the right to choice of sexual orientation, he indicated that, “in a republic, a person is not born in a lawless jungle but under a parentage of a State governing by laws. The laws governing a state are representative of the people’s conscience-their rights and wrongs.”
The Pastor said Botswana’s penal code deals with issues of conscience, and any future amendment of the same should be cognisant of the people’s conscientiousness. Human rights, he said, should have limitations and should not override the society’s conscience.
“Our country’s constitution provides for such rights but also prescribes their limitations. There should never be limitless freedom of association and expression, any such, is not acceptable in our view because it would be portraying a society without moral conscience.”
According to Matlhaope, same sex relations are abhorrent to creation and nature. Spiritually and naturally there is a complementary difference between men and women, he said adding that this means that men are spiritually and physically created to fulfill the role of males as husbands, fathers, and brothers and females are created to fulfill their roles as wives, mothers, and sister., (Gen 1:26-27,; 2:21-25, Eph 5:22-32, Col 3:18-24).
“This difference of complementarities is divine and timeless. Both the male and the female are endowed with distinct complementary features, and both posses equal dignity before the Almighty,” he stated.
In relation to protection of minority rights in a society and whether there is anything wrong with one being gay or lesbian, he said that firstly the argument that some people are born with homosexual tendencies and hence should be given space does not hold.
He added: some people seem to be born with tendency towards violence but this does not justify violent act. Some are said to be born with tendency towards alcohol abuse but this does not justify drunkenness, he continued. Biblically and naturally, the EFB leader said homosexuality is unnatural and comes about when we abandon our natural inclinations.
“Minority rights must be defined and contextualized. Minority as far as race, religion, language or political persuasions are concerned should be protected. But minority of social aberrances such as bestiality, pedophile, cleptomaniac, homosexuality etc is abhorrent and should be shunned,” he advised.
He also cried foul that humans have propensity to do wrong and such an inherent propensity is not necessarily wrong but the actualisation of the wrong is not right.
In case their plea to persuade government to appeal the judgment does not pass, EFB believes that “with or without appeal, the Scripture will not change and the Church’s stand is based on Scripture and will not change. At the end, there is an eternal judge, who will judge all. God’s moral character does not change. God’s ethical imperatives are in accord with his unchangeable moral character.”
The EFB president further asserted that: “God loves the sinner but hates sin. He loves a murderer but hates murder, in the same way God loves a homosexual and has died for them on the cross, but He hates homosexuality. He describes it in His word as unnatural, impure, indecent, perverse, and an abomination.”
EFB is the Umbrella body of Evangelical, Pentecostal and Para Church organizations in the country. It boasts of a membership with denominations and organizations which have member branches across the country. Currently such a membership stands at seventy nine (79) and the voice of EFB is a collective voice of this membership.
LEGABIBO was founded in 1998 to advocate for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. LEGABIBO’s main objective is to raise awareness, educate on health and psycho-social support and mediates between the LGBTI community and others.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”