Tuesday, May 18, 2021

MP wants Botswana to adopt Christianity as official religion

The question by the Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, left no doubt that he had his mind made up about what religion Botswana should officially adopt.

A deeply religious man who sprinkles his contributions in parliament with verses from the Bible and whom parliamentary colleagues often refer to as “pastor”, Nkaigwa asked the Minister of labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, if the government has any plans to declare Botswana a Christian nation and if not, state the reasons why since the nation has a Christian majority.

The answer the minister gave on the floor of parliament doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. While accepting the implicit assertion in the MP’s question, Batshu noted that Botswana is however a secular state which does not place any religion above others. This is demonstrably false because while officially a secular state, unofficially Botswana favours Christianity over other religions. In parliament itself, sittings begin with a Christian prayer; the same happens when Btv and Radio Botswana 1 stations open. Official state functions also have no multi-faith element. According to the Liquor Act, “The licensing authority shall not issue a licence under the Act where the proposed business premises are not at least 500 metres away from a school, highway, major road or church.” Nothing about mosques and temples when Botswana has those. The former Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, slammed the government for this bias. Saleshando, who is himself Christian, said that it was unfair of the government to single out churches for protection while neglecting to provide similar legislative protection to worship spaces of other religions. He particularly mentioned mosques.

While the explanation for this is that Botswana is predominantly Christian, this practice is clear breach of the secular principle to keep the state and religion separate and manifestation of commitment, on the part of the government, to a religious belief and observance. The Christian majority point is itself contentious because some believers go to western church as often they go to traditional doctors and African traditional religion churches.

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