High emotions over churches' Bill

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Debate over the amendment of a Bill seeking to increase the number of persons required to register a religious organisation from ten to 250, has reached fever pitch.

On Wednesday, Francistown West MP Ignatius Moswaane broke his glasses in protest against the Amendment Bill. Minister of Health Dorcus Makgato threatened to strip naked if the amendment was not passed while Assistant Minister of Local Government, Botlogile Tshireletso broke down into tears when the Speaker did not allow her to state her view.

Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, presented the Society Amendment Bill for the second reading last week.

Yesterday there was less drama during the debate but it was obvious that the Amendment Bill had divided the house as some legislators were evidently against the move.
Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe, said the Bill touched at the fibre of who we are as people.

"I want to put it to you that this provision that puts 250 threshold to start a church, compromises this freedom. It is against freedom. It attacks this freedom. When we look at the demography of Botswana, many of our people live in small settlements and cattle posts with the population of less than 200 people. People living in these small settlements do not enjoy the freedom to form a church," he said.

The soft-spoken legislator also said the foundation of the finest men and women of character in Botswana were cemented in churches with less than 250 congregants. "One thing that we promised our people is that we would fight for their freedom. What is at stake as I see it here is the freedom of our people to express their spirituality. In constituency there is a divide of people who agree and those who don't agree,” he added. 

For his part, Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Shaw Kgati, said his Bobirwa constituents agreed with the amendment. Kgati said they want the threshold to be between 200 and 250. "Most of them expressed their worry over the mushrooming of churches. They also want stern action to be taken against those who break the law. Some were even extreme saying the threshold should be 350," he said. 

Minister of Local Government, Slumber Tsogwane agreed that the amendment was overdue. "I support the amendment on behalf of the people that I represent and the Botswana Democratic Party government," he said. 

MP for Gabane/Mankgodi Pius Mokgware said the 250 threshold would lead to mushrooming of illegal churches.

Although Mokgware agreed that Botswana was flooded with ‘economic missionaries’, he insisted the Bill Amendment would not stop the problem. "If you come up with a law you cannot enforce, you breed corruption," he said.

Mokgware also submitted that the threshold was curtailing the freedom of religion.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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