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Thursday, 4 March 2010

On religion and politics..

Reflections from Botswana on the thorny question of whether religious leaders should hold political office :

Reverend Percival Mthethwa of the Empowerment Ministries, also sees nothing wrong with men of the cloth holding political office. He says Christians should be involved in politics. Mthethwa says it is the duty of Christians to see to it that justice prevails. He says their involvement in politics should not only be confined to voting. "They should be watchdogs of the nation." However, he wonders whether a priest who holds political office would have sufficient time for the ministry. In his view, both callings are full time. "One of them will be compromised. It would be better to relinquish the pulpit if you want to go into politics because it will take up most of your time," he says. But he says morally there is nothing wrong with a moruti holding a political office.

But Mthethwa says as a priest you could quit when you hold a political office because you serve people from different political organisations. Talking from his own experience, Mthethwa says he has never revealed his political affiliation. Mthethwa says to remove any doubts you might be forced to quit when you are a priest holding a political office. He says at times when you take action against a church member who belongs to another political organisation, that person might feel you are biased. He/she might feel that you are punishing him/her because you differ politically.

But otherwise to Reverend Mthethwa, the nature of spirituality is political. He says even Daniel and Joseph were prophets of God. But they never served as priests in the temple.
The point perhaps is that this should a question of conscience. It would be foolish to legistlate against religious leaders becoming politicians anymore than that it is foolish to do the same with chiefs. I have yet to hear a convincing reason why chiefs are different from religious leaders to warrant being banned from politics. Both institutions appear inherently political. It is impossible to lead a Christian life and ignore the political forces that often perpetrate injustice. Similarly, only a foolish chief would turn a blind eye to the reality of politics - the chieftaincy is inherently political.


  1. The term "chief" refers to an institution, while a "religious leader" is a person in an institution called a church, synagogue, mosque, or any other name one may wish to ascribe to it.

    I personally have no problem having a religious leader in politics as long as he or she does not drug his or her religious institution into the quicksands of politics.

    I also have no problem if a traditional leader relinquished his position in the institution of chief, assumed his or her original name and joined the political fray like any other citizen.

  2. Kyambalesa,

    The Chieftaincy is the institution, the Chief is the person who presides over a Chiefdom.

    Its one of the many misconceptions that the Chief is all there is to the chieftaincy. What about tribal councils?

    As it turns out the the constitution defines Chieftaincy pretty well. It links the "institution of the chief" to the people. See Chiefs and the law in independent Zambia


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