The Catholic community in Botswana has been thrown into a state of shock and disbelief following the sudden resignation of the Bishop of Diocese of Gaborone Bishop Valentine Seane who is also viewed as a fiery preacher. Consecrated on the 25th of April 2009, Seane was the second Motswana to become a bishop and one of the youngest in the world at the time of his appointment. Highly placed sources within the church have revealed that even when he was laying prostrate on the stone floor at Ditshupo Hall to show his humility before God in the historic ceremony in 2009 allegations were circulating about some highly placed business people who had the control on the church land who were not comfortable with his installation. This week after eight years as Bishop of Gaborone he dramatically resigned from the pastoral care of the diocese. A press statement from the church said Pope Francis accepted his resignation and appointed Bishop Frank Nubuasah as an apostolic administrator. Seane, who has led the Southern African bishops team as mediator in the Lesotho political stand-off, was very vocal and recently spoke against the introduction of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), becoming the first church leader to speak out. A highly placed source within the church has revealed that Seane took decision to resign as the bishop of Gaborone last year after he discovered that there were attempts to kill him. On the 27th of August 2016 at a priestly ordination of Father Ketshepileone Puoeng during lunchtime, Seane is said to have been warned not to take some food given to him as it was suspected to have been poisoned. This attempt to kill him is said to have been the last straw that broke the camels back as Seane took a decision to apply to the Pope to resign as the Bishop of Gaborone. “It takes a while before the Vatican can allow a Bishop to resign because they have to interrogate him on reasons why he wants to quit,” said a Catholic Priest, adding that he might not have bluntly stated that there have been attempts on his life. On Wednesday all priests were called for a meeting addressed by Bishop Frank Nubuassah who broke the news to them that Bishop Seane has resigned and he will be in charge. To show division among priests, when it was announced that Bishop Seane had resigned some celebrated while others were sad and shocked. “Most of the priests were shocked. Some looked happy,” revealed one priest, adding that some felt that he was not treating them well.
Where it all started
Bishop Seane, who has spent most his priesthood life in South Africa and Rome, was called back home when the then Bishop Boniface Setlalekgosi was about to retire. He took over from Setlalekgosi in 2009. Things took a nasty turn when in February 2011, the then Vicar General Father Johannes Kgaodi tendered his resignation from the position which was viewed as sign of sour relationship between the two. A Vicar General deputises the bishop and acts as his representative in matters of jurisdiction or administration. It is alleged that the relationship between Seane and Kgaodi who strangely come from the same village of Otse as him has broken irreparably. Attempts to get a comment from Kgaodi were futile at press time as his phones were off. A lobby list was created to pressure Seane to resign and pave way for Kgaodi but according to sources, Bishop Emeritus Setlalekgosi stood by his successor. It was claimed that Kgaodi and not Seane was the rightful priest to succeed retired Bishop Setlalekgosi owing to his many years of experience at the Church. In the same year, the pressure group, wrote a letter to Vatican requesting that Seane be investigated for buying a multimillion house in Block 8 and for giving church tenders to his close friends and relatives. Sources within the church, revealed that upon assuming office Seane made an overhaul of the church administration, especially the land dealings. Before his appointment, the church business especially land dealings were handled by companies by some key Catholic Members and he decided to take the administration of the land to the clergy. “This put him at loggerheads with some church elders who had interest in the church land and they started forming a pressure group against him,” said a highly placed Catholic Priest.
The Catholic Church in Gaborone owns Farm Forest Hill 9-KO in the South East District which houses Commerce Park, Game City and Spar Mall, Kgale View and Finance Park. It is one of the richest in Africa. The land stretches from Kgale View to Tsolamosese and is one of the prime lands in Gaborone. One of the projects that put him at loggerheads with some key businesspeople and some priests was the envisaged development of a multibillion residential estate at Kgale Hill. “Some of them wanted the piece of the cake but he would have none of that and they in turn used some priests to put pressure on him even writing to Vatican wanting him to be removed as the bishop,” revealed the source. As a way of ensuring that he doesn’t succumb to pressure from the key business people, Seane is said to have informed his close allies that he would resign as the administrator of the Diocese of Gaborone to ensure that those priests who were earmarked to succeed him and hand back the land to the powerful won’t succeed. “When a bishop resigns, Vatican ensures that a thorough audit is done and in most cases the successor to that bishop will be someone from the outside,” revealed that source. During homily on Chrism Mass this year, Bishop Seane is said to have opened up to the congregants revealing that some influential business people within the church are giving him sleepless nights as they want the church land. In 2016, he called a meeting of all men within the church and pleaded with them to protect the church as it was under attack from some people. He formally wrote to Pope Francis seeking to be removed from the pastoral care of the diocese last year and his request was heeded to. In his letter, Seane informed the faithful that he remains a Catholic priest and bishop and is ready to serve the church. “After sometime Providence and the church will decide how best I can continue to serve the body of Christ,” read his letter to the faithful.
Who will succeed him?
The appointment of a catholic bishop is a complicated process which involves outgoing bishop, neighbouring bishops, the faithful, the apostolic nuncio, various members of the Roman Curia and the pope all have a role in the selection. Bishop Nubuasah has been appointed apostolic administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis (he can only serve in the role until a newly chosen diocesan bishop takes possession of the diocese). He is restricted by canon law in what he can do to the diocese he is temporarily administering. For example, he cannot sell real estate owned by the diocese. Nubuasah is said to have been given a strict instruction by the church to clean up the mess before he can call Vatican to come and start the process of selecting a new bishop. “Some of the instructions is to remove some troublesome priests, especially ring leaders and transfer them away from the diocese to other countries,” said the source. As a way of bringing stability into the Diocese of Gaborone, the Vatican might consider appointing him on a full time basis. “He is very experienced and faced the same situations like Seane when he started to Vicariate of Francistown some few years ago and managed to overcome them,” said the source.
He is one of the senior local priests currently based in Mahalapye and is spiritual leader of most of the current priests in Botswana having spent some time in Zimbabwe training them. He is regarded as a disciplinarian who is not afraid to crack the whip and like Seane, he is regarded as very independent person.
Father Patrick Rakeketsi
A South African who is fluent in Setswana and currently the Associate Secretary General for the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), he might be chosen as an outsider who is not tainted by the politics of the local church.
Father Andrew Makgetla
He is currently the Vicar General for the Diocese of Gaborone and has worked closely with Bishop Seane. Father Makgetla’s disadvantage, according those close to him is that he is too soft, and might fail to instill discipline among the clergy.
Fr. Benedict Lesetedi
He is the current administrator of the Christ the King Cathedral and one of the strong contenders for the post. He is regarded as a shrewd administrator as well as pastoral leader.
Fr. Gabriel Gaie
Father Gabriel, who was one of the leading candidates when Seane was appointed the bishop, is back in the thick of things. He is currently based in Bobonong and teaches at Matshekge Hill Senior Secondary School.