The government has taken a decision to investigate the activities of all religious organizations operating inside the country.
The investigation, which will entail a thorough audit of the finances of these organizations, will also be extended to such entities registered as trusts.
This comes after wide-spread mischief-making by some of these organisations, with some of them found to be involved in money laundering.
Speaking to The Sunday Standard, the director if Civil Registration in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mabuse Pule, confirmed that the investigations will be intensive.
He said the activities of all churches that are in operation will be probed.
“What we want is to have a data base of all churches; we also want audited reports from churches.”
He said, like every responsible government department, once they smell a rat it is their duty to request audited reports from concerned organisations.
Pule said his department is worried about the increasing number of churches, some of which are not even registered, with some operating in the backyards while others conduct their church business under trees.
Government is optimistic that the audit will force illegal churches, some of whom are swindling the public, to close down.
Only legitimate denominations will remain, said Pule.
“It has come to our attention that there are organisations in this country that are registered as trusts but, apparently, run as churches,” he said.
His department, he said, has received many complaints about churches that rip off the public, adding that money laundering is rampant in some of these churches.
At the moment, to register a church, one pays a non-refundable fee of P500.
Pule hinted that this amount is too low and may be contributing to the proliferation of churches.
He also said the fee may have to be hiked after all the consultations are complete.
Although there currently are about 800 churches registered, due to illegal operations, the real figure on the ground is much higher.
Pule advised worshippers that while they remained loyal to their churches, they should, in the same vein, report any suspicious activities in their churches to the authorities.The newly elected president of the Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), Reverend Mpho Moruakgomo, said “the move is long overdue” and added that they will fully rally behind the investigations.
Moruakgomo said the BCC is also worried about churches that are ripping off their congregations.
He said as BCC they want the establishment of a religious council that would be responsible for screening churches.
Only when such a Council is in place will fly-by-night pastors, who are the biggest problem, be dealt with, said Moruakgomo.
The Superintendent Minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Mere Odirile, supported government saying “the decision should have been taken a long time ago.”
Another Pastor, Shima Siitumbeka, of the New Apostolic Church in Zion, said, as a church, they fully support the move that the government wants to take and expressed concern about the mushrooming of churches and the influx of fly-by-night foreign pastors.
“As pastors,” Siitumbeka said, “we preach about such churches but some people just don’t listen.”