Olopeng says he never received Dada’s letter written to him and OP last year
Youth and Culture Minister Thapelo Olopeng says he has not received the letter purported to have been addressed to him by the Botswana Muslim Association leadership which raises concerns about government’s “Christianization” of religious space in Botswana and its disregard of other religions in national activities.
The letter as reported in a previous story by this publication rebuked government for how non-Christian religions were side-lined in the build up to the Botswana’s 50th independence celebrations, particularly during the national prayers of 25th September 2016.
Asked whether he received the letter as he was its intended recipient- with Office of the President (OP) only copied, Olopeng whose office was coordinating the celebrations said he only learnt of the letter in The Botswana Gazette. “I have never seen such a letter, I hear it was addressed to me by Mr. Dada but it has never reached me. I have asked a few people around and we seem not to be having the letter but I will continue searching for it,” he said, adding that he intends to contact Dada.
The tough-toned letter was penned by Botswana Muslim Association chairman; business man and Botswana Democratic Party Treasurer, Satar Dada last year. His concern is that government consistently wilfully abandons its responsibility to be tolerant of other religions in the country, a point he drove by citing a relevant vision 2016 pillar and the constitution which provides that Botswana is a circular state. The fear for the Muslim community is that by disregarding other religions, government was reinforcing their intolerance and nationalist sentiments suggesting that the country should declared a Christian state contrary to constitutional provisions.
General Secretary for the Muslim Association, Igbal Chand, revealed to this publication that the letter was sent to the government ahead of the Bot50 celebrations. Chand said before press time, Monday, that he intended to contact the Youth ministry’s permanent secretary on the alleged disappearance of the letter.
For its part, the OP which appears to be distancing itself from the issue, said the letter was originally for the Youth ministry and that “we can only take note of it, we cannot respond,” said government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay last week.
In 2015 at the height of a similar controversy, government moved swiftly to dispel fears that Botswana may be declared a Christian state. Clarifying government’s position on the issue- Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs minister Edwin Batshu said “Botswana does not have a State- sponsored religion and therefore officially neutral when it comes to matters of religion but as a nation Botswana is currently deeply influenced by Christian values.”