Sunday, May 16, 2021

‘Fire!’ churches raise money for Boko Haram, Al Qaeda ÔÇô minister

The Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso, has alleged that Batswana worshippers may be unwittingly financing the operations of terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

Tshireletso said this when contributing to a parliamentary debate on the controversial Societies (Amendment) Bill which won passage last week. She related a second-hand account of someone who left a church because they suspected that it was engaged in money laundering.

“Some people are agents of Al Qaeda and Boko Haram and they use churches to collect money for them,” the minister said.

Al Qaeda is a Middle Eastern terrorist group chiefly notorious for carrying out the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. It was led by Osama bin Laden until his death three years ago. On the other hand, Boko Haram is a nascent Nigerian terror group which shocked the world last year when it abducted 241 school girls, forcibly converted them to Islam and allegedly married them off afterwards. In a story seething with cruel irony, Tshireletso’s allegation would suggest that money provided by Christians in Botswana is financing the terrorism of Islamic fundamentalists.

Despite opposition to the Societies (Amendment) Bill from some MPs, including those in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, the bill ÔÇô which is largely defined by a clause that seeks to increase the minimum number of people required to register a church from 20 to 250 ÔÇô will now become law once all formalities are taken care of. The bill was prompted by a host of ungodly practices mostly associated with what Batswana colloquially refer to as “Fire!” churches ÔÇô charismatic, prosperity gospel churches.

One of the more interesting points during this debate was one raised by Boteti MP, Sethomo Lelatisitswe, who said that mushrooming churches are putting pressure on land. That is because each church wants to have its own piece of land to put up a building. While he opposed the 250 threshold (suggesting 50 himself), the MP said that for purposes of getting land, a church must have 1000 members. What perhaps takes the cake was when he told parliament that raising the threshold to 250 will not stop “people or Nigerians who are coming to this country” under the pretence of being missionaries. His colleague from across the floor, Samuel Rantuana of South East, mentioned one particular Nigerian by name.

“In most instances, these new churches that have services at night are for the low class people while the rich go to TB Joshua in Nigeria … After visiting him in Nigeria, they do not want him to come here to the lower class people and they make a law prohibiting TB Joshua to come here. You should not monopolise things which are not supposed to be monopolised,” he said.

Selebi Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse, alerted the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu who tabled the bill, to the fact that “if you are a determined fraudster, in this country where unemployment levels are so high, you will buy these 250 people. You just buy them. I mean if people can buy votes and get thousands of voters, what is this 250?”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper