(Pic: Flickr / [email protected])

Botswana clamps down on foreign pastors

(Pic: Flickr / EL@Seattle)
(Pic: Flickr / [email protected])

Charismatic churches are on the rise in Botswana, with pastors promising miracles in the forms of successful marriages, work promotions, financial freedom, children for the barren – the list is endless. However, the government of Botswana has come out strongly against these “wolves in sheep’s clothing“, threatening to deport them for their antics.

The country is currently considering a new policy that will give foreign pastors 30-day permits reserved for visitors and tourists instead of the usual 5-year permits allocated to them. In cases where foreign pastors apply for licences to operate their churches, they must have more than 250 listed congregants.

As reported in the Midweek Sun, former minister of labour and home affairs Peter Siele and Ntlo ya Dikgosi deputy chairperson Kgosi Lotlamoreng II started a campaign to curtail foreign pastors in 2010 and 2011  over concerns that they are are defrauding Batswana of their hard-earned money.

Some pastors have been accused of drug dealing, sponging money off locals, power struggles within their churches, failure to submit annual tax returns and preaching ill about President Ian Khama, which is akin to a crime in Botswana – you just don’t speak badly about the president!

Nigerian Prophet Peter Bollaward who was the helm of the Glory of the Latter Ministries in Gaborone was deported on February 8 after the ministry of labour and home affairs declared him a ‘prohibited immigrant’. He was reportedly detained for a few days before his deportation and questioned about the several millions in his ministry’s account and the fleet of expensive cars he drove.

In 2011 the flamboyant Pastor Frances Sakufiwa of Zambia, who ran the New Seasons Ministries and lived in Botswana for 15 years, was deported under a presidential order.  He was surrounded by controversy, mostly related to his roving eye. It’s alleged that the handsome, charming and married pastor was a womaniser who changed women as often as one changes underwear. A few days after he was booted out of the country, a group of women reportedly pleaded with the president to reverse his decision and allow Sakufiwa back into Botswana, claiming he was “highly anointed”.

However, other sources claim the pastor was sent packing from Botswana because of his politically inclined prophesies. Apparently the Khama government became increasingly nervous about his prophesies and the huge media attention they were attracting.

In an interview with the Midweek Sun last year, director of immigration Mabuse Pule stopped short of proclaiming that government would not tolerate foreign pastors. “They come here to abuse our people and push personal agendas. The pastors group themselves and see our own pastors as outcasts in their own country,” he said. He used the biblical analogy in Matthew 7:15 which likens such folk to wolves in sheep’s clothing. “God does not bring crooks here. We will not allow anyone to deceive our people using His name,” Pule said.

In Botswana, the title of pastor is synonymous with wealth and social prestige. Congregants pay tithes and purchase miracle water and other religious memorabilia from the church. Pastors also receive ‘gifts’ from congregants in the form of money, clothes and even vehicles for their blessings and help.

Many Batswana have deserted Methodist, UCCSA, Anglican, Roman Catholic and ZCC churches in favour of the charismatic churches that have sprung up. The latter are characterised by loud music, singing and dancing, vigorous preaching, promises of miracles,  and exorcising of  “devil spirits”.

An acquaintance was involved in a horrific car accident that left her bound to a wheelchair  for a few months. Now a congregant at the Universal Church, she can walk with a slight limp and vehemently believes that God used the pastor to heal her through the Holy Spirit. As a self-proclaimed agnostic, I’m never sure how to digest this except by pointing out how commercialised faith and God have become.

On the few occasions that I visited the Universal Church and New Seasons, I was struck by the high turnout of congregants, particularly the youth, who are dressed to kill and are enthusiastically dancing, singing and chanting praises. Church is the new “cool” in this country; a big social club. This is a choice many Batswana have made, and it’s clear that charismatic churches will continue to thrive despite government’s attempts to stop them. The people will believe who and what they want to believe.

Keletso Thobega is a copy editor and features writer based in Gaborone, Botswana. 


  1. This topic is interesting my view in this matter , people might think the church is draining congregation their hard earned money , in the eyes of man it might look
    like that. I believe that no one on this planet earth is appointed to advise an individual
    how to spent money unless he is appointed, still individual might decide to listen or do
    his /her own way, no minister of god has ever put a gun to anyone to contribute, you
    can be a member of a church and not contribute is all by choice ,i know few people who are even proud of not contributing and they drink liquor a lot but they are struggling financially, how can one justify this matter ,how many people are spending
    all their hard earned cash on liquor , but no one will ever say liquor must be banned in their country, reason not to ban liquor is because the government is receiving revenue from the substance, ministers of god through the power of god they have
    helped many who were trapped by the substance which in the way on revenue there
    is a minus ,my contribution to this matter I suggest pastors not to be deported since
    people surely they have never marched that foreign pastor they must live the country
    JESUS CHRIST said go and preach the gospel till to the ends of earth , in closing
    leave everything to god

  2. Eduardo says:

    I don’t know if the Universal Church named in the article is the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Brazilian multinational of theft (it’s perhaps the same with a slightly different name). It is in many countries and pressure people to give money (I know this first hand as I know from people the search they do on people’s jobs and income). Its leaders have become millionaires. About two decades ago, the main leader (owner) of this church, Brazilian “pastor” Edir Macedo, was filmed counting piles of bills and smiling at the same time. The revealing of this filming was a scandal worldwide, but this has not stopped the church and many other charismatic and traditional churches or religious organizations from exploiting the faithful. Remember the Catholic bishop buying a mansion in Germany? Well, this is not only a charismatic churches BIG problem.

  3. Nozzy says:

    Interesting article. The charismatic churches have taken the world by storm. They are very popular here is South africa as well and they are quite costly too. The way to heaven is getting more and more expensive.

    I have a friend who religiously (no pun intended) donates 10% of his earnings each month to the church before he does anything with his money. The guy is struggling financially. I have advised that if he kept that 10% to himself things could be better but no he wont do that. I have also suggested that he asks the rich pastor for some assistance when he runs into financial trouble, but then he accuses me of being cynical.

    I like what the Botswana Government is doing, everybody must be held accountable and defrauding people in the name of God is still fraud.

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