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Brothers and sisters participating in various forms of the ministry in Botswana

FEBRUARY 19, 2024

Fifty Years of Religious Freedom in Botswana

Fifty Years of Religious Freedom in Botswana

February 20, 2024, marks the 50th anniversary of legal recognition for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Botswana. Prior to being granted legal status in 1974, our brothers in Botswana endured several periods of restrictions and an outright ban on their theocratic activities.

Brothers and sisters posing for a photograph at a circuit assembly in Mahalapye, Botswana, in 1965

Kingdom truths first reached Botswana, then known as Bechuanaland, in 1929. However, in 1941, political hysteria linked to World War II led the government to place restrictions on our work and the distribution of our Bible literature. When these restrictions were finally lifted in 1959, Jehovah’s Witnesses continued their spiritual activities in relative peace.

In 1972, a new law required all organizations in Botswana to register with the government. However, when our brothers attempted to comply with this law, their application was denied and they were given just 20 days to cease all religious activities. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Botswana were under ban! Anyone found participating in the ministry or congregation meetings faced up to seven years in prison. Nevertheless, our brothers continued to meet in secret. For example, meetings were sometimes held in secluded locations in the bush. Recalling his experience during that time, Brother Tommy Maruping said: “Despite the ban, we were more determined than ever to continue preaching and meeting together. We trusted that Jehovah would remain with us, and he always did.”

Attendees at the 2023 “Exercise Patience”! Regional Convention in Gaborone, Botswana

On February 20, 1974, the government reversed its decision and Jehovah’s Witnesses were allowed to officially register as a religious organization. Today, almost 2,400 publishers attend 42 congregations in Botswana. Meetings are currently being held in Botswana Sign Language, English, Kalanga (Botswana), Setswana, and Shona. Brother Hugh Cormican, who began missionary service in Botswana shortly after the ban was lifted, remarked: “Our brothers and sisters have continued to thrive spiritually until this day. The ability to meet publicly at meetings, assemblies, and conventions helps us to experience true unity as Jehovah’s people.”

The endurance of our brothers and sisters in Botswana gives us further proof that Jehovah will always bless the loyal efforts of his servants to “observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.