Bakgatla Paramount chief, Kgosi Kgafela, says the Family of God Church and Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana filed their court case against him in a bid to score political points and “cut him down to size”.
This emerges in Kgafela’s answering affidavit filed before the High Court in Lobatse.
The two churches dragged Kgafela to court, alleging that he had violated their right to worship. This followed an incident in which two pastors of Family of God were flogged by Kgafela’s regiments. The Church, which wants the High Court to bar Kgafela from meddling in its affairs in Kgatleng, is accused of making noise and being a nuisance.
Cited as the 1st respondent and Bakgatla tribal community as the 3rd respondent, Kgafela says the applicants want to prove that they can do as they please in Kgatleng.
“They believe that they can do as they please and the only people they can listen to are the political leadership and structures set up by them. The order they seek at 2.4 and 2.5 and supporting averments in their affidavits are no coincidence to what they say, but a natural manifestation of their belief. They have been taught over the years that it is ok to disrespect and disregard kgosi,” states Kgafela.
Kgafela says that the case launched by Family of God is a mischievous political motive to ‘cut down to size this troublesome little chief called Kgafela’.
He argues that although the two churches claim their case is urgent, they filed the case close to two months after being aware of interference with their right to worship.
Kgafela says despite his communication to the church, there was never an effort by the church to talk the issue over.
In the court papers, he denies closing down Family of God church. Kgafela says that Family of God church members who were flogged were ‘indisciplined youths who had no respect for the chief and his community’.
“The applicants, with the aid of the media, have virtually prosecuted and convicted me even before the case has taken off the ground in court and have temporarily won the minister (Lebonaamang Mokalake) and President Ian Khama on their side through their deception,” argues Kgafela.
Kgafela says that Family of God and its lawyers did not want the issue to be resolved through dialogue because it would have robbed them the opportunity to score their political point.
Kgafela states that although his tribe is accused of resolving to restrict how churches should worship, there has never been a single meeting in which a decision was taken to place restrictions on how Churches worship. Kgafela said consultative meetings with the tribe only emphasised that people may play their music but should not disturb the neighbourhood as doing so shall be against the law.
“The law that I am referring to is the Constitution, Kgatleng District council by laws on noise and nuisance, the common law on neighbour rights and corresponding customary law on the same point…..,” states Kgafela. He says that on more than one occasion he cautioned Family of God church members to desist from making noise but his caution was disregarded.
Bakgatla paramount chief says his regiments, whose activities he is fully accountable for, shut down a church service of Family of God church.
He says contrary to their claims, Family of God church has not been banned from Kgatleng but rather his position is that they will not allow the church to preach disrespect within Kgatleng. Further he states that the church, which has dragged him to court, may not use the community property if it is suing the community and disrespecting its leadership. Kgafela says that it is not correct to state that as the chief he does not have authority to intervene in affairs of the church.
“An interdict that I have no power to intervene in matters of and concerning the church will be incompetent. If the affairs of a church offend the law, I will intervene to bring them in line with the law. If a church preaches a doctrine with a potential to destroy and break my community apart I will intervene to stop such teachings. If a church, like second applicant, teaches the youth that it is ok to disrespect other individuals and to disrespect kgosi, I will intervene to make sure they do not get away with misleading our youth in this way,” argues Kgafela.
Kgafela says that he will watch the conduct of Family of God church and if it warrants the church shall be lawfully expelled from Kgatleng even if it means getting a court order.
Kgafela says that he respects the country’s Constitution and operates within Setswana tradition and custom.
“Thus the method I employ for instilling respect and discipline whilst appearing unconventional are in reality the Setswana way which is consistent not only with previous judicial pronouncement of this court, but consistent with the nature of us humans,” Kgafela argues.
He says that he would continue to discipline by flogging, especially those who disrespect the elderly.
“If a man disrespects women in the streets, especially through the insults common in Gaborone now, we do not report him to the police. We thrash him so that he may learn there on the spot that women must be respected. We make follow up through his family to ensure that he has learnt the lesson.”