Botswana’s 23 October national polls are being described as a “high-stakes general election.” In this peaceful and sparsely populated country, the Bishop of Gaborone is encouraging citizens to vote for candidates who prioritise the common good.
In a pastoral letter to the people of Botswana, the Bishop of Gaborone Frank Nubuasah, SVD recently reminded voters to invoke the Holy Spirit who always helps Christians make right decisions.
“Although our democracy is more than 50 years, we do have major challenges as a nation. The immediate challenges which need to be tackled now are: Raising youth unemployment, quality education that prepares (young people) for the market place, the diversification of the economy from mining and tourism, poverty and corruption,” said Bishop Nubuasah. He continued, “We can use the following criteria to help us discern how to vote and which political party to align ourselves. Our participation in political life requires that we promote: The Sacredness of human life, human dignity, support for marriage and family, social responsibility and respect of the common good, the just sharing of resources and wealth and compassionate solidarity with the poor and marginalised,” he said.
Over the past few months, Botswana has been gripped by a very public falling out of former president Ian Khama with his successor who is now the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi. Khama has since formed a breakaway party. Over the weekend, at a campaign rally in Serowe, Khama encouraged voters to vote for the opposition BPF and UDC against BDP -a party he once led and one that was co-founded by his father.
For the first time, the ruling BDP party will go into an election without a stronghold. The BDP has ruled the country without interruption since it attained its independence from Britain in 1966. At stake in the general elections are 57 directly contested parliamentary constituencies and 490 local government positions.
Do not be overtaken by emotions
In an emotionally charged election climate, the Bishop of Gaborone reminds the electorate, in his letter: “It is important that we listen carefully to each one of them (candidates) and not let emotions take over our hearts and minds. To vote, you must know who you are voting for and what he/she stands for,” said Bishop Nubuasah.
Moral obligation to participate in political life
The Church in Botswana wants Christians to participate in politics and help bring about a more just society.
“Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” writes that, ‘Responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation.’ Pope Francis encourages us to get involved in politics in whatever way possible to promote social responsibility and respect for the common good. Let us shape the future of our country by participating fully in the elections and pray for peaceful, free and fair general elections this year,” Bishop Nubuasah emphasised in his pastoral letter.