By: Phaladi Letswamotse
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane on Monday said he would rally behind churches should the government execute its plans of demolishing some of their structures in Francistown for occupying land illegally.
This comes after Lands Minister Prince Maele announced that his officers are currently profiling squatting churches in Francistown adding that all squatting churches will be evicted by January 2016.
Moswaane told this publication that ever since 1966 government has never had a proper plan or a deliberate move to assist churches to acquire land in the whole country.
According to the MP, records show that from independence until now, only 26 plots were allocated for churches and seven plots went to one church.
He said whenever plots are advertised, very few are meant for churches and churches have to compete for those few plots with other civic and community organisations.
“For churches to acquire land they have to pull their financial muscles, we all know that churches especially those that are led by Africans are broke. At the same time the only way for them to acquire a piece of land is through buying. How do we then expect them to own land where they can worship?” said Moswaane.
The Francistown West Legislator is of the view that Botswana is made up of different cultures that make it difficult for the nation to work together as a team. He says religion is the only aspect that unites Batswana from different cultures urging government to use religion in many ways to unite the nation.
“I am against any move that will encourage demolition of churches. We still have a chance to plan and work together with churches to find a better solution to that problem. We have not done enough to recognise religious leaders, we see them as priests only and they are not considered important in any ways by government. They are only needed during elections, funerals, weddings and any other social gatherings,” said Moswaane.
He said government tends to forget to ask itself a simple question, “Where are these priests operating from?”
Moswaane also condemned his own government for taxing religious groups; he said it is more like taxing God-“the provider of everything.
“This is why we do not receive any rainfalls, government has powers to tax God and God has powers to stop everything and that will negatively affect the progress of the nation. Why would we demolish the house of God? Instead of government using the power that it has against God, government should be using its powers to assist God to come into our lives. It could do that providing pieces of land for worship and stop taxing religious groups,” Moswaane told The Telegraph.
Furthermore Moswaane said most of the churches have been here since 1981. Most of them were using their residential plots for worship adding that local authorities removed them and were sent into the outskirts of the towns where government is now following them.
“We should treat them with the dignity they deserve. Should that not happen we are likely to see churches defying government and I will support them against my own government,” he concluded.