Continuing troubles in Botswana

Bishop Mwamba with Solomon Ngubevana, the oldest parishioner in the Diocese (left), November 2007
Botswana: Bitter Recipe Brewing for Bishop Mwamba

from: Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
28 October 2008
Bame Piet

The sour relationship between the Anglican Diocese of Botswana, Bishop Trevor Mwamba, and some congregations around the country has reached acrimonious dimensions, it has emerged.

After revealing his intention to appeal against the recent High Court judgment in which seven priests successfully challenged their dismissal from the church, some congregations are said to be brewing a plan to oust Mwamba.

It is reliably learnt that some sections of the congregation are
planning demonstrations against the bishop for next week Friday.

The St Peter's Anglican Church in Mogoditshane has written him a
strongly worded letter dated 20 October 2008 in which they dissociate themselves
from the intentions to appeal.

The congregation responded: "That during your visit to the congregation
of St Peter's Parish in Mogoditshane, you said the priests had not taken the
bishop to court but the diocese of Botswana. The congregation therefore
dissociates itself from the bishop's decision to appeal the High Court of
Botswana ruling in favour of the seven Batswana priests," the letter

The congregation also urges the Botswana diocese to dissociate itself
from the bishop's decision to appeal the ruling. "The St Peter's congregation
will cease payment of assessment to the diocesan office with immediate effect,
and urges all Anglican congregations in Botswana to do the same," the letter

The congregation further warned that it will not take part in any
fundraising activity for the diocese including 'Count Your Blessings', Sunday
Collection, upkeep for the incumbent and others, and urged all Anglican
congregations in the country to do the same.

"The St. Peter's congregation will channel all its contributions
towards meeting the legal costs of the seven Batswana priests," says the

The Mogoditshane congregation is concerned that Bishop Mwamba continues
to take drastic actions without consulting the membership of the Anglican
Family, ignoring their advice.

"The St Peter's Mogoditshane congregation stands by its letter in which they advised the bishop to involve the church in decision making, and to adopt reconciliatory engagement when dealing with sensitive issues in the church," the letter proposes.

The Mogoditshane congregation revealed its frustration with the appeal,
saying it would lead to a serious rift in the church. "History will judge us
harshly should we be known not to have taken pre-emptive measures to avoid a
split in the church, by engaging in an unnecessary appeal against a court
judgment," states the letter.

On October 15, the Lobatse High Court ruled in favour of seven priests,
Aubrey Molatlhwe, Botshabelo Beleme, Moreri Leteemane, Mooketsi Mokgatlhe, Paul Beleme, Essau Mosima (deceased) and Patrick Ncaagae after challenging the
Anglican Diocese of Botswana and Bishop Mwamba for revoking their licenses to
practice as priests.

The Bishop accused them of trampling on the church rules
whilst the priests and some congregations said the Bishop was paving way for
expatriate priests. Early this year some angry members of Molepolole
congregation nearly assaulted the priest accusing him of abusing his office and
disrespecting them.

Meanwhile, diocesan secretary, Father Benjamin Moleko denied any knowledge
about any intentions to appeal the court ruling. "All I know is that we are
meeting with the governing body this week to discuss the judgment. We will make
official position thereafter," he said. He would not discuss our any further
details, referring our enquiries to the church lawyers.

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