So our government wants to spend a very crucial time engaging in prayer? I find it very peculiar that a government, whose main job is to run the affairs of state, should be spending prime time in the morning, pursuing something that is none of its business.
The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has announced that it launched a ‘Month of prayer’ which started from the 5th September 2014 to the 26th of September 2014. This practice has been going on for quite some time now. It has become a norm that government offices, health facilities and many other government installations, church services are held where prayers and sermons are given by members of staff. We understand that there is a need to hold prayers and it is a good thing that government wants to lead the call to prayer. However, we find it quite befuddling that the government instead of assisting the church or collaborating with churches during, say the weekend, to pray for various challenges that we might have as a society, the government has arrogated to itself this role. Instead of playing a facilitatory role in matters of piety, the government has developed preponderance for taking the front seat in evangelising. It is very suspect for a government to have an appetite for prayers yet the public service is in disarray. The public health sector is in shambles. A lot of clinics are without medicine. The security of ARVs in some clinics, especially in rural areas is non-existent. In other government departments, the public continues to complain about the poor service they get. Worst of all, government offices are now infamous for having very long unending queues. Inefficiency is the order of the day.
No one goes to a government department for a prayer service. For that kind of service people go to church, mosque or other religious places. The reason most people choose to come early to government offices in the morning is because they want to beat this long queues and also, most importantly, they want to ensure that they get the service in time and get back to work, or home where they have to also attend to their daily chores. So, the prayer sessions, if allowed to take a lot of one’s time, will definitely make worse the level of productivity in our country; both at the workplace and at the home place.
Last year, yours truly approached a public health facility for assistance last year in Gaborone only to stand for a whole hour waiting for a prayer session led by a matron to come to an end. It should be noted that this column or its author is not against prayer. I am not against it. I do pray myself. What I am against, is a tendency by government and its top officials to get carried away with what is beyond their mandate. Yes, we can pray during official events, but for a whole government to declare that for a whole month its offices will hold prayers every morning at a time when people are supposed to be getting services, is an issue of concern.
Government should be careful not to politicise religion; more especially that here in Botswana, we claim to be a secular state. Religion is the precinct of Christian churches, mosques and other organised religions. There should be a clear distinction between the state and religion. However, with these prayer sessions, organised and led by government and taking place at government offices during times slated for public service provision, it shows clearly that our government is gravitating towards religion. When religion and religious leaders provide spiritual leadership, the government should provide pragmatic leadership and provide efficient services to the people.