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The faith-based organisations led by former president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana, Reverend Pastor Master Matlhaope and first vice president of Botswana Council of Churches, Reverend Gabriel Tsuaneng have taken a decision to intervene in the dispute between the President, Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor, Ian Khama.
A task team has been formed to deal with the matter and deliver on their endeavour. Matlhaope confirmed the development to this publication and said the will be media briefed at a convenient time on developments and outcome.
“It will be disrespectful to the presidency to share such details. But we can confirm the developments but not the details,” he emphasised.
His deputy, Tsuaneng reiterated Matlhaope’s words but shared that their efforts were prompted by the current state of affairs between the president and his predecessor which is now in the public domain.
“The church is concerned and worried. The matter is now national, and the church had to rise up. We hold the presidency in high esteem hence our move to protect and defend this highest institution of that land. We have met as the umbrella bodies and made this decision to intervene,” he revealed while further declining to field specific questions on how they intended to fulfil their mandate.
Masisi’s senior private secretary, Berzac Maphakwane said he did not want to be drawn into the matter, indicating that this publication should contact John Dipowe-the communications director for assistance. Dipowe ‘s phone ran unanswered at the time of going for press.
The attempt by the church follows the failed attempts of the country’s senior citizens, His Excellency Dr. Festus Mogae, His Honour Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Ray Molomo, Honourable Patrick Balopi and Honourable David Magang to assist and lead in smoothening the differences between Masisi and Khama.
In his State of the Nation address in November last year Masisi informed the nation that attempts by the elders have not borne fruit. “I regret to announce that their efforts have not borne fruit up to this point,” he said.
Khama later released a statement saying Masisi was not being genuine, “It is regrettable that the statement given on the occasion of the SONA about the situation concerning two parties (Khama/ Masisi) reflected only one side without consultation with the other in order to give the nation a balanced perspective of progress on reconciliation or the lack,” Khama said. Khama added that there is “no sincerity, genuineness and commitment in reconciliation if these kinds of actions are still perpetuated”.
The churches known for impartiality and neutrality will be aiming to lean on their credibility and the legitimacy unlike the senior citizens whom Khama viewed with suspicion as most had previously openly criticized him as being a spoilt “child” and undemocratic. As people of faith, religious leaders and faith-based actors are more likely to be perceived as even-handed, trustworthy, and possessing a strong moral and spiritual commitment as opposed to their secular counterparts. Recognition of this spiritual motivation is likely to lead to the effectiveness of mediation efforts. Masisi attends to United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) while Khama is Anglican.
Faith-based actors have a different form of leverage in mediation as theirs is a unique moral and spiritual leverage. The unique leverage of faith-based actors comes from a reputation for change, based on a respected set of values and a well-established influence in the community which empowers such actors with the moral legitimacy to serve as mediators.
A browse over historical interventions shows that involvement of faith-based actors in conflict resolution processes is not a new phenomenon. In fact, faith-based actors, including clergy (e.g. the Pope, priests, imams, rabbis), religiously inspired leaders (e.g. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. among many others), and religiously motivated movements and organizations (e.g. Moral Re-Armament, World Council of Churches, etc.) have consistently played a role in resolving conflicts.
In Botswana, the church, although active is still shy of treading into the political arena has as a measure of last resort, often at the insistence of the progressive clergymen brokered negotiations on issues of the state. In the 2011 public service strike during the Khama era the church made an attempt to intervene, but their efforts hit a snag as the strike continued and the advice of legal professionals and left hundreds of causalities in its wake, some of who are still jobless.
The clergy generally play a very important role on changing behaviours, attitudes and negative stereotypes; educating the parties; healing trauma and injuries; disseminating ideas such as democracy and human rights.
Faith-based mediation is widely known as a third-party intervention effort where religious creed, objects and institutions play an important role where politicians have failed. The Pope successfully mediated the Beagle Channel conflict that erupted between Chile and Argentina in 1985.
One of the distinctive elements of faith-based mediation is framing intervention strategies within a religious context while employing traditional strategies used by other mediators.