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Anderson saga needs clarity

 

David Magang           

VIEW FROM MANA HOUSE

The deportation of the homophobic and roundly vexatious American clergyman Steven Anderson on the instructions of President Ian Khama on Tuesday September 20th hardly elicited my sympathy. What I found mystifying in the extreme was why he was given the green light to cross into the country in the first place, when other countries such as the UK and neighbouring South Africa only recently red-flagged him and well before he set foot on their territory. Whereas worthy men such as Aliko Dangote are kept well at bay practically on a whim, the dregs of society personified in Anderson are eagerly given the benefit of the doubt. The irony boggles the mind. 

According to press reports, Anderson arrived in Botswana on Thursday September 15th to commission a branch of his Arizona-based Faithful World Baptist Church, a sect he founded in December 2005. On Sunday, he even spoke from the pulpit, punctuating the same anti-gay standpoint about which he so vehemently sounded off on GabzFM on the morning he was ejected from Botswana. Yet our law enforcement agents pounced only when he was heard on radio – six days too late.  Certainly, if he hadn’t featured on Breakfast With Reg, he would still be doing the rounds in Gaborone (he said he was smitten by the Arizona-like country weather-wise and by its clubbable and crime-averse people), spewing forth his signature prejudice with wild abandon. 

As far removed as he is from our part of the world, Anderson is not some obscure oddball.  The unorthodox pastor hit the acmes of notoriety in July this year when he toasted to the massacre of 49 people by a deranged gunman in Orlando, Florida. Anderson’s twisted logic, which ignited widespread anger, was that the victims got their just desserts because they were patrons of a gay night club.  “The good news is that there’s 50 less paedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and paedophiles,” he ranted in a 4-minute video-taped mini-sermon dedicated to saluting just this atrocity.

Rather than exult at the fact that there were 53 survivors in the same carnage as any normal human being should, Anderson actually piled on the scorn, miffed that they continued to draw breath when government should by rights have subjected them to lethal injection for their morally indefensible sexual orientation. “The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive,” he regretted. Their inevitable doom he gloatingly pronounced thus: “Fifty people in a gay bar that got shot up, they were gonna die of AIDS, and syphilis, and whatever else. They were all gonna die early, anyway, because homosexuals have a 20-year shorter life-span than normal people, anyway …”

Such vitriol, such odious views, stem not from the voice of sanity but from that of a lunatic and that is putting it mildly.

 

MAN OF GOD WITH ACERBIC TONGUE?

 

For a man who professes to be a rule-abiding Christian chapter and verse, Steven Anderson’s gay-bashing diatribes are not entirely baseless as he points to a scripture in the King James corpus – the only version of the Bible he calls "holy" and permits in his church.  What rankles with me is his strident tone and the abhorrent lengths to which he goes in voicing a sense of disgust. 

In an August 16 profanity-laced sermon he titled, “I Hate Obama”, Anderson hurled opprobrium at the president for exhibiting a “ungodly” tolerance for homosexuals, supporting abortion rights, and the consequent “lewdness” he had supposedly foisted on American society. “When I go to bed tonight,” he thundered, “I’m going to pray that Barack Obama goes to Hell.” He is also said to have told a gay radio host that, “If you are homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer”.    

The Mail & Guardian reports that a 59-year-old man who came to listen to Anderson’s sermon at the same church he had come to officially open here in Gaborone was angrily tossed from pillar to post by Anderson’s no-nonsense escorts for refusing to make a mandatory declaration of sexual orientation at the entrance. He was roughed up right in the precincts of the “House of God” when he should have been treated with a sufferance and indulgence which sets Christianity apart from most other faiths. On top of that, he was accused of “having AIDS” and berated for his “AIDS-filled mouth” as he was to all intents and purposes a homosexual. 

Listening to a podcast of the GabzFM debate, I was staggered by Anderson’s brashness and effrontery. Referring to one of the discussants, an advocate for gay rights, he said, on mere assumption, that, “He has sex with little boys and strangers — and, if you have not done it yet, you will do it in future.” A reverend who also participated in the debate later described his encounter with the foul-mouthed Anderson as, “very, very tense. It was like being in a physical fight. At one point, Anderson pushed his finger against my forehead and called me a fake pastor.”

Maybe Anderson did not exactly go beyond the pale after all. The very icons and paragons of the Christian faith haven’t been particularly restrained in venting outrage. Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (MATTHEW 23:33). John the Baptist made a hobby of openly castigating King Herod Antipas as an “adulterer” (MATTHEW 14:1-13). The sons of Zebedee asked Jesus to rain down a firestorm blaze on those who resisted the gospel (LUKE 9:54). In a letter to the Church at Galatia, the great Apostle Paul minced no words when he wrote, “I wish that those who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!” (GALATIANS 5:12). But that is a different juncture in history with its own cultural mores and eccentricities we’re not under obligation to adopt in our day and age: in modern-day Christendom, it is an a priori assumption that a so-called Man of God ought to be measured in his rhetoric, that he should guard against intemperate and inflammatory outbursts. 

 

A SCRAPPY TEMPERAMENT

 

Yet the one thing we should be wary of is not to accord Steven Anderson, a wily character if there was one, a publicity platform he craves but which he does not remotely merit.     It is clear to   me that the main reason he’s gone out of his way to court headline-grabbing controversy stems from a desperate attempt to shore up his pitiful membership  numbers.

I gather that his church, which doubles as the setting for his fire alarm installation business, operates out of an office space in a strip mall. When it is a full house, the office-cum-church    is peopled by no more than 150 congregants, about 30 of whom are children.

Although he has never been to seminary and holds no theological credentials of any sort, Anderson boasts, on his website, that he has “well over 140 chapters of the Bible memorised word-for-word, including approximately half of the New Testament”. One of the scriptures that he has so loyally committed to heart and fulfilled to the letter is the enjoinder to “be fruitful and multiply”. At only age 35 and having married at age 20, Anderson parades a brood of 9 children, some of whom look like sets of twins when they are not. 

Whereas one of the beatitudes in Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount says, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”, Anderson is far from passive, acquiescent, or compliant. To the contrary, he is belligerent, defiant, and intransigent. In April 2009, a US newspaper reported that when border patrol agents flagged him down and demanded that they search his car, he refused either to roll down the windows or get out of his car, triggering a 90-minute stand-off that only ended when police smashed the window, yanked him out of the car, and shocked him with tasers in a bid to tame him.

Anderson clearly is no type to offer the other cheek when push comes to shove. He’s lucky he’s lily-white: if he was black, he would have been pumped full of lead instead of being simply tasered as that is America’s newly-fangled way of waging a pogrom against the black population. 

 

MAN, WHO MADE YOU JUDGE OVER FELLOW MAN?

 

In Steven Anderson’s tragicomic world, a homosexual belongs to the gallows, the firing squad, the gas chamber, the electric chair. They all must be rounded up as a matter of routine, led to the market place in manacles, and pelted with stones till they are reduced to a pulp for making a Sodom and Gomorrah of the society they adulterate.   “The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers but not for homosexuals,” he bellows.

Anderson points to LEVITICUS 20:13 as his rallying cry. It says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”  But scripture should not be cherry-picked: it must be rigorously cross-checked with what other scriptures assert in similar  situations in light of the Lord’s admonition that under the New Covenant, we’re not under the draconian, eye-for-an-eye Old Covenant jurisprudence (MATTHEW 5:38).  As important, it must be properly contextualised. One has to take into account the theocratic paradigms of Old Testament systems of rule with their emphasis on puritanical obedience in that  age of virtual serdom.

Anderson must be reminded that ours is a dispensation in which the law of grace supersedes that of Shariah-like retributive justice.  A story is told in JOHN 8:3-11, whereby the Pharisees dragged before Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. According to the Torah, the Law of Moses, she was supposed to be stoned to death. Jesus first reacted by drawing a line in the sand, then dared any single one of the Pharisaic mob to cast the first stone at her if he himself had never indulged in at least one act of immorality before.  Everybody was chastened: they all slunk away one by one, with their heads hanging in shame.

Anderson ought to take cognisant of the truism that fallible man is not competent to judge fellow man: only God is. Saint James underscored this point when he said, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?” (JAMES 4:12).

 

GOVERNMENT MUST CLEAR AMBIGUITIES

 

That said, I wish to seek clarity from the relevant authorities on one or two things that concern me in the context of the Anderson expulsion.

First, was Anderson forewarned by government before he set foot in the country that Botswana was no place for his incendiary anti-gay mouth-offs? Was he lured into an ambush with a view to make him provide the proverbial rope with which to hang himself? For if I recall correctly, in 2014 our Labour and Home Affairs minister did serve timely notice on Pastor Lesego Daniel of Rabboni Centre Ministries in Ga-Rankuwa, Gauteng Province, that if he coaxed Batswana into gorging on fresh, churchyard grass as he was in the habit of doing in his home country to his own flock, he would be thrown out of the country forthwith.

Second, exactly what is government’s position at present on “unnatural” sexual acts? Sections 164, 165, and 167 of the Penal Code  plainly  makes homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, etc,  criminal offenses that may attract jail sentences of between 5 to 7 years. Even   Justice Terrence Rannoane, when he pronounced for the freedom of association viz–a-viz LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)  in November 1914  did emphasise the fact that homosexuality nonetheless remained a transgression against the law.  The Penal Code,  along with  the prohibitively steep alcohol levy, may in all probability have emboldened Anderson to speak with the temerity he did against both homosexuals and local pastors who did not make a priority of preaching temperance. 

Thirdly and finally, when Anderson was booted out of the country, what specific clause spelt out his fate? In South Africa, when Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba   prevented Anderson from entering the country, he invoked Section 29 1 (d) of the Immigration Act which categorically  bars  anyone who is  “a member of or adherent to an organisation advocating the practice of racial hatred or social violence” from coming to South Africa. Does our law lay down in black and white a likewise clause?   

   

           

 

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started

and

  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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