Vol.21 No.106

Tuesday 13 July 2004    

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Leaders say Botswana is a secular state

THATO CHWAANE
Staff Writer

7/12/2004 11:54:38 PM (GMT +2)

THE Reverend Rupert Hambira has dismissed notions that Botswana is a Christian state. Speaking to Mmegi, Hambira, the president of the Botswana Christian Council (BCC), said that Botswana is a secular state deeply influenced by Christian values. He was categorical that Botswana has never been a Christian state though it continues to celebrate Christian holidays. He said he does not prefer a religious state because it is better to live in a diversified nation.


He asserted that all people in Botswana have equal access to religious organisations and that Christianity has not been imposed on anyone.

The Principal of Kgolagano College of Theology, Prince Dibeela, said Botswana is a secular state in terms of the law and that Batswana have inherited the western culture of Christianity. He said a majority of Batswana are Christians, even those who do not go to church. Dibeela said that Botswana follows the Roman Dutch law that comes from Christianity. He said as a people, Batswana have accepted Christianity even though it is not in the statutes. He asserted that Botswana does not celebrate the holidays of other religions except Christianity because the other faiths have very few followers in the country.

He said so far Christianity has served the nation well and people with different beliefs should continue to celebrate what they believe in.

Head of University of Botswana's Department of Law, Professor Emmanuel Quansah, said Botswana is a secular state as it does not have state sponsored religion. He said the constitution does not favour nor discriminate against any religion and there is freedom of association.

Quansah said it was assumed that a majority of people were Christians (despite lack of detailed research) in Botswana and that it was up to the government to declare holidays. Press Secretary to the President, Jeff Ramsay, agreed that Botswana is a secular state and added that matters of religion boiled down to societal values, customs and how the people wish to behave.

The Botswana National Front (BNF) president Otsweletse Moupo said the popular view is that the majority of people in the country are Christians. He said there was nothing wrong with Christian holidays taking precedence in Botswana because the minority always loses to the majority.

However, the president of the Botswana Alliance Movement, Lepetu Setshwaelo, has stated that as far as he is concerned, Botswana is a Christian state. "We should not run away from who we are. Our founding fathers were also Christians, by far the majority of Batswana are Christians," he said.

Ramusu Mogatle of the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) said that Batswana should hold onto what they know and continue celebrating Christian holidays, unless there is a strong reason for change.

According to Dumelang Saleshando of the Botswana Congress Party, the country's secularity is a contradiction. This is because once a state is declared secular, it should practice religious neutrality. He said that Botswana is a peculiar secular state that fosters Christian beliefs.

Saleshando said that Botswana should not be seen to be aligning itself with a particular religion. He said that members of other religions should not feel discriminated and Christianity should not take an upper hand as a preferred religion.

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