Labour and Home Affairs Minister, Edwin Batshu says the proposed amendments to the Societies Act are not intended to regulate the work of God or spiritual matters as these are â€˜beyond the lawâ€™.
Among the proposed changes is an increase in the number of people required to form and register a religious organisation from 10 to 250 members.
In addition, the amendments will enable the minister to guide the operation of religious organisations, “as a way of ensuring peace and tranquillity within them”.
Batshu told Parliament last week that the amendments would regulate matters related to the establishment, governance and monitoring of registered societies including churches. “Government is not against the establishment of churches in Botswana. The Constitution of Botswana provides for the protection of freedom of conscience including freedom of religion,” he said. Batshu said his ministry continues to register religious organisations in recognition of this constitutional right. “To date 1,913 religious organisations have been registered,” he added. The minister was answering a question from Gaborone North legislator, Haskins Nkaigwa, who wanted to know if government is against the establishment of churches in Botswana. He asked why “unrealistic” laws are being proposed and how the proposed bill “addresses the works of God, which are not physical but spiritual”.
Batshu said that since the enactment of the Societies Act in 1972, the country’s population has grown and churches, equally, have increased in size and complexity, necessitating reforms in the law. He added that the proposed changes would be debated and tested in Parliament.