Category: Lifestyle

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. 

Senegal tenants celebrate mandated rent cuts

A new law mandating across-the-board rent reductions in Senegal is a double-blessing for real estate agent Abdul Aziz Sylla. Along with paying 14% less each month for his family’s three-bedroom Dakar apartment, the 36-year-old has been busy brokering deals on behalf of clients flush with newfound purchasing power – and cashing in on a flurry of commissions.

“Everyone is happy about this,” Sylla said this week while standing outside his subdivided villa in Dakar’s Liberte 6 neighborhood, where he also markets property. “Apartments that were just a little bit too expensive, people can suddenly afford them.”

Two years after successfully running on a campaign to lower living costs, President Macky Sall has received wide praise for the law from residents frustrated with the city’s pricey housing stock.

Critics of the rent reduction, however, note that it can distort the market, potentially discouraging the construction of new property or the leasing of existing housing. There are several new housing units currently being constructed, indicating that builders have not yet been discouraged by the reduction, which has been debated for years.

Enforcement will be tricky, and could determine whether the measure becomes a model for other regional governments, said Robert Tashima, Africa regional editor for Oxford Business Group.

“It goes without saying that the key to this legislation is enforcement, which has long been an Achilles’ heel for other rent control and tenancy rights ordinances elsewhere in Africa,” Tashima said.

Landlords will be able to increase rents once current leaseholders leave. Also a black market could emerge where sub-letters pay higher rents.

(Pic: Flickr / hownowdesign)
(Pic: Flickr / hownowdesign)

While rents have climbed throughout West Africa over the past 20 years, Dakar’s increase has been especially dramatic as Senegal cemented its reputation as the most stable country in an unstable region, attracting organisations seeking to move their regional staff from bases in politically turbulent Côte d’Ivoire.

High-end buyers from countries like Nigeria have also increasingly seen Dakar, located on a peninsula that is Africa’s westernmost point, as “a reliable market” for second homes, Tashima said.

Today, rental housing in Dakar’s downtown Plateau district can be double that found in the central business district of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, and often rivals prices seen in large European cities, he said.

Benefits for low-income renters
The situation got so bad that in 2010 Senegal’s National Assembly launched an investigation. The new law, enacted last month, is scaled to benefit low-income renters most: Those paying less than 150 000 West African francs (roughly $310) in rent each month receive reductions of 29%. For apartments with rents between 150 000 and 500 000 francs, the reduction is 14%, and for units priced at more than 500 000 francs the reduction is 4%.

Just over half of Dakar’s roughly 1-million residents are renters, according to Senegal’s national statistics agency. The law does not apply to business property.

Dakar resident Cherif Gassama said the move is politically shrewd, as living costs are a top concern for Senegalese. After getting married last June, the 32-year-old spent six months scouring the city for a new apartment, finally hitting on a fourth-floor walk-up priced three times higher than the unit he leased when he moved to Dakar a decade ago.

Under the new law, his monthly rent decreased from around $300 to about $255, freeing up money he expects to spend on gasoline and staple foods like rice.

“To be frank, this is the first thing that Macky Sall has done to help us,” said Gassama, who described himself as a long-time Sall supporter.

His wife, Rokhaya Diagne, agreed. “When he was first elected two years ago, he was not so focused on fixing things,” she said of Sall. “He was more focused on corruption cases from the past. Now that he’s actually trying to fix things people are changing their minds about him, for the better.”

But like other Dakar residents, she urged Sall to consider similar measures to lower food and energy costs. “He can’t just do this. He needs to do more. This is just a first step for him,” she said.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the rent law will benefit everyone that it’s supposed to. Landlords who refuse to comply face up to six months in prison and fines of up to $3 100, but Tashima with Oxford Business Group said the government needs to ensure there are “sufficient resources to oversee the rental market and adjudicate disputes.”

Some landlords have openly said they will defy the law, among them Diarra Sarr, who manages property in the HLM neighborhood.

“I can’t apply this measure. The state doesn’t know all the work we’ve done to construct our houses,” he said. “The government cannot impose these lower rents on us. If they want to lower rent, they need to construct social housing for the population.” – Sapa-AP

Surf’s up in Sierra Leone

There have been inspirational reports about Sierra Leone locals trying to revive their country’s tourism industry which has been marred by years of a terrible civil war. Part of these efforts are being channelled into building both a culture and industry around surfing, a sport originally developed by the native Polynesians in Hawaii, as the western coast of Sierra Leone is home to a number of beaches that make for some pretty good surf locations.

Whilst not on the level of more established surf industries and primary surf locations, there are at least four beaches in Sierra Leone that one can visit with a  surfboard in tow: River No.2 beach, Aberdeen beach, Bureh beach and Sulima beach.

surf1
(Pic: Tommy Trenchard)
(Pic: Tommy Trenchard)
(Pic: Tommy Trenchard)

Bureh beach seems to be gaining the highest level of popularity, probably due in part to the Bureh Beach Surf Club (BBSC). Some of its members are pictured above as part of a photographic essay by Sierra Leone-based photographer Tommy Trenchard.

The BBSC was set up in 2011 as a non-profit organisation and is the country’s first and only surf club. It’s located in Bureh, a small fishing village that is about a 90-minute drive from the capital Freetown.

Junior members of the Bureh Beach Club (Pic: Facebook)
Junior members of the Bureh Beach Surf Club (Pic: Facebook)

The four beaches are definitely spots to consider if you’re thinking of visiting the West African country. Those with Ecowas passports can get their passports stamped upon arrival if all documents are intact. However, be sure to check with the Sierra Leonean embassy where you live before departing. Non-Ecowas passport holders will need visas to enter.

Dynamic Africa is a multimedia curated blog focused on all facets of African cultures, African history, and the lives and experiences of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora – past and present. Visit the blog and connect with the curator, Funke Makinwa, on Twitter.

 

For the love of African teas

As an immigrant, there are traditions you carry over with you to the new country and there are many more that you leave behind in the old country.

In my case, the old country is Kenya and the new is America.

The strongest expression of my old country in my life in the US today is in the form of food. The recipes my grandmother passed on to my mother and my mother to me have survived the proverbial crossing of the ocean. It doesn’t get more Kenyan than the tradition of Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon Tea is a British tradition that was carried over to many of the country’s colonies. Introduced in England in the early 1840s, it is a tea-related ritual that includes a small meal to help stem hunger between lunch and dinner.

Kenya took on this tradition – so well that I would dare to say that tea is the most important drink in Kenya (though many may argue it’s our national beer, Tusker). The country is currently the largest producer of tea in Africa. You can find a physical manifestation of this dominance in Kericho, the town where most of the country’s tea crop is grown.

Kenya has quadrupled its tea exports over the last decade, according to the Kenya Tea Board. (Yes, we have a Kenya Tea Board.)

The afternoon tea ritual itself is quite simple. Around 4pm throughout the country, people pause from their day to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea, often served with milk and sugar, or taken “strungi” (black). Finger foods include simple bread, sandwiches, a slice of cake or pastries. It is a shared meal with people often gossiping about politics – a national past-time and news of the day – before finishing off the latter part of their workday.

As much as I would like to think of Kenyans as the great influencers of all things to do with tea on the continent,  the ritual of tea is enjoyed throughout Africa. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), tea production in the East African region contributes 28% of the world market supply. Considering the fact that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, after water, with an estimated 18 to 20 billion cups of tea consumed every day, this is a major industry.

Other tea-growing African countries include Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

As a tea aficionado, I enjoy various blends from across the continent. These are my favourites:

Kenya
Kenyans drink black tea often taken with milk and sugar, though there are those who prefer it “strungi” or just black. My family enjoys the ginger-flavoured (Tangawizi in Swahili) variety of tea, a popular option that has a great kick to it. You can buy some online here.

Somalia
I was first introduced to Somali “shaah” two years ago, and it has since become my favourite type of tea. I was drinking it daily at one point. The spice makeup of this tea is just delicious: nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger with black tea all crushed together for an incredible aroma. Make it yourself using this recipe.

South Africa
There are many names for Rooibos (“red bush” in Afrikaans) tea including red rose tea, red clover tea, and red diamond tea. It is made from the rooibos plant found in the Western Cape region of South Africa. Dutch settlers are said to have turned to the drink as an alternative to expensive imported black tea from Europe.

The popularity of the tea has grown worldwide now making up 10% of the international herbal tea market and about 0.3% of a global tea market that has an estimated value of US$ 23 billion, according to the South African department of agriculture. The country exports 6000 tonnes of rooibos tea per year with annual exports quadrupling in the last 13 years. This is a good thing for tea growers in South Africa, but has also led to a number of legal issues abroad due to cultural appropriation – as seen in this case with a French tea company trying to trademark the word “Rooibos” in France.

Tunisia
Green mint tea is traditionally a North African and Middle Eastern drink, widely popular in Tunisia. My go-to recipe is from the Crimetcondiment blog, and includes a dash of pine nuts for flavour.

Green mint tea. (Pic: Chef Afrik)
Green mint tea. (Pic: Chef Afrik)

Green tea actually comes from the same crop as black tea. However, its leaves undergo minimal processing – which allows the tea to retain most of its antioxidants –  while black tea goes through an oxidation process.

The art of making a good green mint tea is in the foam/froth. To produce the froth on the surface, the tea is poured from a height out of a special pot with a long slender spout. You can also recreate this process yourself using two pots.

I am not the biggest fan of green tea but it is a delicious drink.

Senegal
There is also a large tea-drinking culture in West Africa especially in Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania. These countries prefer a green mint tea similar to the Tunisian recipe above. The difference is that the Senegalese prefer a much sweeter affair and add a good amount of sugar to their tea.

The drinking of tea is an elaborate three-round process known as “Ataya” in Wolof; Ataya is also the name of the tea. The first round of tea is always strong and bitter, the second more sweet with a little mint, and the third, very sweet.

Why three rounds? There are various reasons, all folk legend, but my favourite is this: “The first cup is the love of your mother. The second is the love of your friends. The third is the love of your love.”

Adhis is a journalist who blogs at Chef Afrik where she is currently cooking her way through Africa one country at a time. She writes about food, travel and culture on the continent. Connect with her on Twitter

Black girl privilege

(Pic: Flickr / epSos.de)
(Pic: Flickr / epSos.de)

When I was a kid, my mother told me I would have to work harder in this life because I was black girl – a warning I am sure many others of my gender and race have received. I should mention that, at the time, I was living in a country where the majority of people were white. As I grew up, I heard the same message in the media – on the news, blogs, in songs and films – it was clear that everyone believed that at the top of the economic food chain were rich white men and at the very bottom were poor black girls.

I moved to my country of origin, Rwanda, when I was 22. It is a small developing country at the heart of Africa that has been recognised for its impressive economic grown in the last decade. As a young adult, I found myself in a world full of charities and NGOs that had pictures of girls that looked just like a 10-year-old me, only no one had brushed their hair or got them to put on their prettiest clothes before taking the picture. I read disheartening statistics that told me that most girls my age and from my region had already given birth to their first child, had dropped out of school, had been subject to sexual violence, domestic abuse – do I need to go on? So what happens to me – a university-educated, single, entrepreneur with a face that world believes belongs to a victim?

This is what happens: rather than suffering the negative discrimination I was promised, the opposite has happened. People want to help me – not because they think I’m intelligent, or driven, or skilled – but because they believe I must need it, being an African woman. I can’t tell you how many times I have been approached (often by white men), with offers to invest in my business or with other valuable opportunities before they’ve had had a chance to get to know me or my business – to know if I really need it or even deserve it. On top of the freebies thrown at me, I often get asked to represent groups that I am a part of, because having a young black woman on the cover will give the impression of diversity and goodwill. You see, as an African woman, there are many people who want to help you through “the struggle” (or at least be photographed helping you through it).

Contrast this with the issues faced by the young white men here in Rwanda and in other African countries. The prejudice they face is that they are all rich, hard working and of course, very generous! I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked by some of my African friends to ask my white friends to help them out financially – a scholarship, a job, a gift, etc. On top of this, white men (and women, too) are often subjected to “muzungu prices” – inflated prices believed that only a white person can pay – no, should pay, because, after all, they have more money than they know what to do with, right? Interestingly, many of the white friends I have in Rwanda are missionaries and volunteers (a few are business people but I don’t know if they are rich… and if they are, they haven’t told me!). The other day, a friend of mine, a white woman, visited Rwanda from the UK. Soon after I was seen with her, I was asked by a Rwandan friend to get my British friend to sponsor her child’s education. She did not ask me if my British friend could afford it or if she was the kind of person to do that – she had seen enough when she saw the colour of her skin.

Many Rwandans have a glorified image of white people – and why wouldn’t they? After all, when we Rwandans visit Europe or America or Australia, we take photos in the capital cities, in front of gleaming skyscrapers, expensive cars, and posh houses. To pose with of a random child playing in the dirt or a homeless man in rags sitting in the street and make that our Facebook profile picture would seem ludicrous!

As a result, white people visiting Africa continue to suffer under the stereotype that they all live on 100 dollars a day. Meanwhile, rich – well, okay, I’m not rich so let’s say “financially stable” –  black girls like me must continue to have money thrown at us. So, I guess you’re wondering – what’s the secret? How can you know whether or not a white man that just walked by is here on an expensive holiday or a missionary trip? How can you tell if that black girl is wearing torn jeans as a fashion statement or because she can’t afford new ones? Well – here’s the secret: get to know them!

Akaliza Keza Gara is the founder of a multimedia company called Shaking Sun, a member of Girls In ICT Rwanda, the Kigali Global Shapers hub and kLab, an ICT innovation hub. She loves open source technology, animated films and chocolate milkshakes. Follow her on Twitter: @AkalizaKeza