Botswana LGBTI activists push to keep 'kill the gays' pastor out of their country
While South Africans celebrate Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s announcement on Tuesday that the “pastor of hate”, Steven Anderson, and his church will not be allowed entry into the country, LGBTI activists in Botswana are feverishly campaigning to have Anderson blocked from entering their country.
Bradley Fortuin, communications and documentations officer of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), which has initiated an online petition through Change.org, says: “We have been in communication with the office of the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs here in Botswana and have made them aware of the matter at hand. They are well aware of our petition and are waiting to receive it tomorrow. We strategically decided to hand in the petition on September 15, as it will be International Day of Democracy. We believe this will have a significance on the outcome.”
Anderson, a controversial and fiercely homophobic preacher, is scheduled to visit Botswana (after his now-cancelled visit to South Africa) to set up a branch of his Faithful Word Baptist church in the country.
Says Fortuin: “We believe that Anderson is not good news for the peace and welfare of Botswana. We have made significant gains in raising awareness among the general society, MPs, community leaders and religious leaders in highlighting LGBTI matters and we feel that he is a threat to what we have managed to accomplish. His preaching incites hate and promotes violence, stigma and discrimination not only towards LGBTI people, but also towards women and other faith groups.”
Despite LeGaGiBo only recently being allowed to register itself as an NGO, after a three-year-long court battle with the Botswana government to do so, Fortuin is confident the country will follow the example set by Gigaba.
“Yes, we are hopeful that the government of Botswana will protect its citizens from Anderson and his ministry. As emphasised in the judgment in our registration case, everyone in Botswana has the right to be protected under our Constitution. In addition, as a legally registered organisation, we can legitimately put pressure and hold the government accountable if they do not stop Anderson from coming into Botswana and setting up his church here.”
Given that the organisation is relatively young, it has also been calling on the support of other LGBTI and human rights organisations as it lobbies the government.
These organisations have, according to Fortuin, “been very instrumental in raising public awareness about this matter to their different constituents”.
GaySA Radio’s Hendrik Baird, who spearheaded the campaign to have Anderson prevented from entering the country, has been vocal in his support for the organisation’s drive. Baird concedes, however, that in the absence of adequate resources, there is a limit to how much support can be given.
“We initially alerted them to Anderson’s planned visit to their country and shared their online petition as many times as we could - and are still doing that. But we don’t really have the capacity to, for example, go there and protest.”
Fortuin adds: “Another challenge we have encountered is the encouragement of some of our people to have him come here. As much as we are engaging with various communities and getting their support, there have been others who have vehemently spoken out in favour of his coming here and ‘praying the gay away’. But, this does not, and will not, stop our advocacy. We will continue to speak out and call for more supporters.”
Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow fellow at the Mail & Guardian.