Once perceived as a haven for lost souls, the Church is losing its allure and authority as several religious leaders continue to make all the wrong headlines, from sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement and murder. This begets the question: Is religion still relevant in the modern world, and is the role of the Church being eroded by the very individuals expected to uphold positive principles and values in order to inspire and guide their communities? Religious leaders, by definition, are interlocutors between communities and other leaders, as well as followers of other faiths.
They are ambassadors of goodwill. What we can realistically expect from dialogue between leaders and followers of different faiths is to create an environment conducive to peaceful coexistence, an articulation of common values and the ability to work together to address niggling issues in society like moral decay, poverty reduction, assisting those who are less privileged, fighting drug abuse among young people, fighting domestic abuse, maintaining the institution of family and also having an input in issues related to the promotion and protection of social justice, and fighting against all forms of discrimination and prejudice because religion is at the core of the ethical, moral and spiritual fabric of most societies.
This past weekend, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (U.C.C.S.A) held a choir festival at Ditshupo Hall where choirs from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe shared music under the theme, ‘Singing Glory to God, The Lights To Shine.’ The spiritual leaders of the church noted that despite the trying times that we live in, the church can still make a positive difference in the lives of people to ensure they are closer to God, reject sin and do good for others. What is the role of religion in the modern world?
An excerpt from an academic paper by Centre for Islam and Public Policy, explains that the role of religious leaders in the modern world is to help people grapple with the changes in life. “The modern world has presented us with issues that were inconceivable for humanity a century ago: economic and cultural globalisation, new technologies, the emergence of social media, global warming and environmental decay, introduction of the weapons of mass destruction in warfare, which can all lead to moral decay. Religious leaders today are called upon to respond to these issues and also provide leadership to their followers on how to cope with them.”
What is the role of religion and Churches in Botswana society? In an interview, Reverend James McKeran of the Anglican Church said that Botswana has always accorded religious leaders respect and honour that is not always observed in other parts of the world. McKeran, who served as a Dean at the Anglican Cathedral Church between 2012 and 2015, explained that he appreciates how priests and pastors are culturally given respect and engaged on issues of relevance and importance to society in Botswana.
“Religious leaders are engaged in diplomatic circles and included with civic leaders. We were engaged on different issues and sometimes travelled with leaders, where we would be expected to give a spiritual view of issues. “Unlike in other parts of the world, Batswana have always enjoyed access to thought leaders, community and religious leaders.” He said that different religions are respected and accorded economic and spiritual privileges in our society, adding that in the 150 years that the Church has existed in Botswana, it has cemented a relationship of service and love with the community and leaders, and not one of status and wealth.
He said that churches and religious leaders should be part of the conversation relating to the changes in our society, from technology to morality. “The church has historically played an important role in calling out unacceptable behaviour and practice; this should continue. “You would remember for one that the Church was against the ills of colonialism and had a voice throughout to most African countries gaining independence.” McKeran shied away from commenting on the undesirable behaviours of certain religious leaders, but emphasised that Churches and religion as a whole, play a crucial role in society that can never be overlooked. Should sin be tolerated?
A church leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that the deeds of certain individuals should not reflect on religious bodies. “We cannot disregard the fact that religious leaders are also human and just as susceptible to sin but this of course does not mean that it is tolerated. We should send a strong warning to these individuals and ensure that they dance to the music. “However, the ethics and morals of religion should be upheld regardless of the next person. Each individual is going to face the music for their deeds one day.” The past week has been awash with the debate on men of God who indulge in immoral activities. This is so because of late, Botswana has been hit by one scandal after the other, involving pastors, priests, preachers and prophets.
The University of Botswana Student Representative Council is disappointed by Minister Thapelo Olopeng’s remarks quoted in the media, and his failures to address issues faced by students. The Tertiarty Research Science and Technology Minister told reporters that the students are pulling political stunts.
This was after they were arrested for locking Department of Tertiary Education Funding (DTEF) employees in office some three weeks back as demand for student attachment allowance grows much greater than before. However, SRC vice president Tumelo Legase dismissed the minister’s remarks during a press briefing on Monday morning at the University.
“It’s disappointing to see the minister being petty instead of addressing pertinent issues that students face. It has been three months and students have not received their allowance, that’s the issue he should address,” he lashed out. The SRC’s endless scuffles with DTEF seem far from over. Legase said that DTEF has been inconsistent with crediting student allowances for the longest of times and they always have to ensure that they do their job. “We have proposed an advanced student allowance management system but they are still failing to take up such ideas.”
Following various engagements with the DTEF and UB Management that have failed to bear fruits, the SRC resolved to petition the DTEF Director and University of Botswana Student Welfare Director. According to Minister of Justice Carter Joseph the University Management has even failed to provide them with transportation to DTEF offices. “We are doing voluntary work for the students and management can’t even fulfil their duty of providing us with transportation,” he stressed.
For his part, UB SRC President Amogelang Mokwena said they are left with no option but to petition DTEF Director and UB Student Welfare Director. He said they will call a mass demonstration and petition these “two who are failing to do their job come August.” “We don’t encourage incompetency that’s why we want them to leave office so that someone befitting and capable goes into office, we will mobilise together with other SRCs across the country and we will get enough numbers to over throw them.”
The SRC has also expressed apprehension at the absence of University of Botswana Vice Chancellor Professor David Norris who is always available to give them an ear and extend a helping hand.
“We have a solid relationship with Professor Norris. It’s sad that he is outside the country and cannot be of any assistance.
“In his absence we have no one to run to. I can say we have no relationship with the Director of Student Welfare,” Mokwena lamented.
LIES AND DECEIT
On the surface it looks like a storm in a teacup but it is a brewing tornado which threatens to rent asunder the harmony subsisting between tribal leadership and politics.
And at the heart of it all seems to lie bits of dishonesty, lies and deceit. It all started with a luncheon meeting hosted at Maharaj Conference Centre for nine (9) Bangwaketse Dikgosana, supposedly called by Kgosikgolo Malope II. On the way to this luncheon from Kanye, the Ngawaketse capital, new information turned by one of the trip organisers revealed that the meeting was just a political gimmick by the Botswana Patriot Front (BPF) and its patron former president and Bangwato Kgosikgolo, Ian Khama.
Happening two weeks before the launch of the BPF in Kanye, the luncheon was a masterstroke by the party’s strategists to secure legitimacy amongst the tribe’s leadership as well as the much-needed numbers for the party’s launch and elective congress. But now some of the Dikgosana say they were tricked into participating in a partisan meeting whose motive they were never privy to.
The alleged association of Gangwaketse with BPF reportedly started with Khama’s visits to Kanye in search of a suitable venue for his party’s historic inaugural elective congress. This is where, according to emerging reports, officials of the BPF struck an association with one of the tribesmen who would later be used, amidst promises of money, to mobilise the other tribal leaders for the Maharaj meeting.
Last week Thursday, Bangwaketse Kgosi Malope II summoned all these Dikgosana to explain their actions. These Dikgosana are Gaonakgang Gaonakgang (Mmangwato ward); Thomson Ntsima (Tsima ward); Gaokgakala Monnathebe (Goo-Logaba); Frank Boakgomo (Boakgomo ward); Lewatle Kgosiyareng (Mongala ward); J. Ramoshane (Lotlhakane East); Kepatilwe Mafoko (Tlagae ward); Gaofenngwe Bome (Bome ward) and the Kgosana of Moshana village.
The meeting was attended by District Commissioner of Southern District Mmoloki Edward Raletobane as well as tribal administrators.Of these tribal leaders, it is Bome who reportedly met and agreed on the Maharaj meeting with the BPF patron. Both men are believed to have been contacting each other for some time and it appears they even spoke about how Khama could involve all Dikgosana in his grand political plan.
Following conclusion of the master plan, where two more tribal elders were brought into the plan, Bome is said to have then called all the other Dikgosana to inform them that Malope II – who at the time was in Gaborone attending Ntlo ya Dikgosi session – has invited them for lunch in Gaborone and would send a bus to collect them.
It was when the men were about to touch down in Gabs that Bome allegedly changed tune saying that they were in fact going to be meeting with Khama, not Malope. This allegedly brought worry and division among the Dikgosana but they nevertheless went ahead to Maharaja where they were met and welcomed by BPF interim President Biggie Butale. One of the dikgosana reveals that Butale would then request them to have patience because “Morena o etla” (The king will be coming), referring to Khama
And then Khama arrived
The common narrative from the elders is that upon arrival, Khama gave them the impression that he did not know anything about the purpose of the meeting, but that he had nonetheless come because he had been informed that they wanted to meet with him. Upon asking them why they had wanted to meet with him, it was Bome who curiously jumped to the opportunity to be the first to speak.
Some in the group reveal they were shocked when Bome told Khama that they had come to seek his assistance against President Mokgweetsi Masisi whom they alleged was making them lead miserable lives. Bome allegedly stressed that since Khama left the presidency, they suffered under Masisi who was forcing them to pledge allegiance to him. Khama was further told by some of the tribal elders that they were not comfortable with the oppression and sought his advice on how they could petition Masisi to Queen Elizabeth.
It is said that Khama advised them to rather take their petition to the British High Commission in Gaborone. One of the Dikgosana, Kepatilwe Mafoko, is said to have chipped in to add that Government was refusing to promote him even though he had served the morafe for long a long time. Records however show that the same Mafoko had long been brought to the Kgotla years back, just to help with a few things, and that he has remained there since. The other Kgosana who spoke was Lewatle Kgosiyareng, a former political activist for both ruling BDP and opposition BNF but has since quit politics. In his response, Khama is said to have told them that he too is suffering under president Masisi (Le nna Masisi o a ntshwenya) even as he is the one to have chosen him to succeed him when he retired.
Khama allegedly then told the Dikgosana that he too would love it if they give him support in removing Masisi through the ballot in October. “I therefore request you all to mobilise people to come in numbers for the BPF launch,” he allegedly said. In his address to Dikgosana, Khama allegedly told them that he was currently talking to other Dikgosi throughout the country seeking their support for this cause. Some of the elders reveal that after deliberations of the day, two of their colleagues would later have a private meeting with Khama. The Midweek Sun has established that the two were Bome and Mafoko. There is suspicion that the two received some monetary incentives as what would transpire later in the village gave rise to those suspicions. A source close to the village’s development committee – VDC – revealed that one of the two would later that day arrive pay back the P3000-00 debt he had had for some time.
Reports say Bome and Mafoko, from their side meeting, arrived to tell the others that they had been promised that transport would be organised and each of them would be paid P6000 to mobilise Bangwaketse for the BPF launch and efforts to remove Masisi. As it turned out, not all Dikgosana could hold the secret for long, and soon the secret meeting reached the ears of Kgosi Malope and a meeting was called for Wednesday, where the concerned Dikgosana were advised to stay away from politics. Malope and his administrators would then call another meeting with Dikgosana on Thursday and asked them to explain their actions to other village elders. This is where some of the issues were revealed. It is at the same meeting that Bome allegedly confessed and exonerated Malope, saying he never gave them permission to attend a meeting with Khama.
Instead, he confessed that before the Maharaj meeting, he had gone to Malope to tell him Khama had invited him for lunch, to which Malope only said he didn’t find anything wrong with him dining with Khama if they are friends.
Word was already spreading in the village that Ngwaketse royals had been given huge sums of money to mobilise morafe for the Saturday launch of BPF. But after this clarification by Bome on Thursday, Malope then called a Kgotla meeting on Friday in order to clear the air for the villagers. The meeting was addressed by deputy Chief, Kebapetswe Telekelo.
Efforts by this publication to speak to Khama proved futile, but The Monitor quoted him this week denying that he ever sought to meet with the Dikgosana. “They are the ones who had asked to see me on that day, but unfortunately I was not available in the morning and they had to come for lunch,”Khama is quoted to have said, adding that the Ngwaketse royals then complained that Masisi was forcing them to support him.
What Bome told The Midweek Sun
Kgosi Bome also denied most of the allegations against him but confirmed that they indeed travelled to have lunch with Khama and were provided with transport although he says he does not know whose vehicle it was.
“It is true we travelled to Gaborone at the invitation of former president Khama who invited us for lunch. We accepted the invitation as we did not see anything wrong with it,” Bome said.
“But we have since apologised to Kgosikgolo Malope for having attended lunch without having followed proper channels, so questions on this matter are not necessary.” But then again, Bome denies ever organising transport or calling other Dikgosana to attend the lunch meeting with Khama. Yet his colleagues contend he did. “I did not organise the transport for Dikgosana as they claim. Our transport came with Kgosi Lewatle Kgosiyareng.
He told us that they were coming from Letlhakane where there was a donation for a wheelchair.” Bome said it should be noted that this is election time and people are bound to lie about others. “There is nothing more I can say. We called Bangwaketse to clarify our position on Friday. I also confirm that I have heard stories that Khama offered us money. The Morafe continues to ask me about this and some close to me tease me for a share,” he told this publication. And then he added: “The fact is we never talked politics with Khama – even the law is very clear that we have to remain apolitical as our major role is arbitration and uniting the tribe.
Instead he only told us he is retired and only wanted to spend time with us as he has done with other Dikgosi.” District Commissioner – Southern, Mmoloki Raletobane confirmed being aware of the matter. “I was informed by the tribal administration and know everything by virtue of my position. We allowed the chieftainship to resolve the issue in the best way possible,” he said. The contradicting versions on what really transpired have not been helped much by the refusal of other Dikgosana to speak to this publication. Kgosi Malope II could neither be drawn into discussing the matter as he said the matter had been successfully resolved.
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LIES AND DECEIT