- All churches must register under the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA)

Leader of Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) Botswana Dr Tebogo Philemon Motlhagodi says he does not know anything about the formation of a Pastors Association in Botswana.

Motlhagodi shared this week that he learnt that there is a new association being formed through the media and wishes that if the reports carry any truth, the leaders should reach out to them.

The Pastors Association led by one Ketshedile Modise recently held a press conference telling how they are not pleased with government. They strongly believe that government is out to oppress the church through the newly-introduced laws that govern the church.

Under the amended Societies Act, all churches must register under the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA). The amendment is meant to strengthen compliance with Botswana anti-money laundering regime and protect societies against possible abuse.

Some of the amendments include removing exemptions, so that all societies register with the Registrar of Societies for monitoring and supervision to minimise risk of commission of financial offences.

Refusal to register, churches are subject to sanctions. Penalties have been increased under the Societies Act to provide for effective and proportionate sanctions for violations obligations.

Moreover, government demands that office bearers have to be qualified and fit for the job.

“It is for this reason that we found that there is need to form a Pastors Association where we will all come together and address challenges we are facing. We are not happy with government because they seem to be fighting us. We are a group of more than 2 000 pastors,” Modise had said.

He said it was not right for government to demand that for one to be able to register a church, they should have 150 members.

“The number is too high and unreasonable. Their registration processes are frustrating. It takes a long time but you will find that church leaders are renting where they operate. This means one is likely to pay around P40 000 monthly rent but not operating,” he said.

Modise said government has temporarily suspended registration of new churches as they are still trying to clean up following realisation that some churches are operating illegally.

“It means they have not been doing their job, they are only realising now that some churches are operating illegally and have decided to temporarily suspend registration,” he said.

He accused government of wanting them to be qualified pastors when there are no training institutions accredited to offer Theology studies in the country. With that they believe government is not ready to implement change and just want to make them suffer.

“We understand their grievances and believe that together, we can make things right. They are not wrong to complain but a united front is more powerful,” Motlhagodi said.

He said that Churches are forced to be part of OAIC but at their organisation, they have on some occasions sat down with government to address issues affecting churches.

The intention, he said is not to fight but find a solution by listening to the concerns of government and also that of churches given that it is indeed true that many churches have mushroomed all over the country.

Former Botswana Council of Churches president Metlhayotlhe Beleme also said they do not know anything about the newly-formed Association.

“We are aware that government has made changes and we are also speaking to them so that the church does not suffer, we will not have a problem knowing who they are and seeing if we cannot work together,” he said.

Concerning cooperation with other church organisations Modise said he does not know about the organisations, but all they did was bring together different pastors regardless of what type of church they go to.

“At the end it is about the church, yes we are not yet registered but in the process of doing so,” he said.