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?
The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.
The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent. That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.
Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed
Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.
Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.
The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.
In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.
However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.
The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.
The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.
What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.
Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.
Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.
They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.
There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.
The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.
Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.
Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.
Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.
To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.
The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.