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Political Culture in Rural Botswana: a Survey Result

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008

Jack Parson
Senior Lecturer in Political and Administrative Studies, University College of Botswana, Gaborone


Political culture may be defined as the attitudes, beliefs, and values held by a population and directed towards the political system of which it is a part,1 and includes what people know about that system and their evaluation of its work.

The concept is of importance for two main reasons. First, the attitudes that people have will help determine their behaviour. If the view is held that development must involve popular participation, then it is important to look at those factors which might affect whether or not people will participate. The second, and related, reason is that political culture tells us something about the degree to which people accept as legitimate and useful the political system under which they live. This is important to know when considering questions, for example, that have to do with the potential for political instability.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1977

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page 639 note 1 Two books relevant to this concept are Gabriel Almond and Powell, G. Bingham Jr, Comparative Politics: a developmental approach (Boston, 1966),Google Scholar and Pye, Lucian and Verba, Sidney (eds.), Political Culture and Political Development (Princeton, 1965).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

page 639 note 2 A selected list of references concerning this period would include Founding a Protectorate (The Hague, 1965); Schapera, Isaac, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom (London, 1970, first published 1938)Google Scholar; and Parsons, Q. N., ‘The Economic History of Khama's Country in Southern Africa’, in African Social Research (Lusaka), 18, 1974, pp. 643–75.Google Scholar

page 640 note 1 From the 1933 Pim Report, quoted in Spence, J. E., ‘British Policy Towards the High Commission Territories’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), 11, 2, 1964, p. 232.Google Scholar

page 640 note 2 Schapera, Isaac, Married Life in an African Tribe (London, 1971, first published 1940), p. 128.Google Scholar

page 640 note 3 Ibid. p. 23.

page 640 note 4 See Ettinger, Stephen, ‘South Africa's Weight Restrictions of Cattle Exports from Bechuanaland, 1924–1941’, in Botswana Notes and Records (Gaborone), 4, 1972, pp. 2130.Google Scholar

page 640 note 5 See Landell-Mills, P. M., ‘The 1969 Southern African Customs Union Agreement’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, IX, 2, 08 1971, pp. 263–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

page 640 note 6 Hermans, Quill, ‘Towards Budgetary Independence: a review of Botswana's financial history, 1900 to 1973’, Botswana Notes and Records, 6, 1974, pp. 101–2.Google Scholar

page 640 note 7 See Spence, loc. cit.

page 641 note 1 An outline of this period may be found in Stevens, op. cit. pp. 141–61, and Edwards, Robert H., ‘Political and Constitutional Change in the Bechuanaland Protectorate’, in Butler, Jeffrey and Castagno, A. A. (eds.), Transition in African Politics (New York, 1967), pp. 135–65.Google Scholar

page 641 note 2 I Rand = I Pula (Botswana's new currency) = U.S. $1·15 in 1977.

page 641 note 3 A useful summary of the growth in the economy is contained in Silitshena, R., ‘Mining and the Economy of Botswana’, in Cohen, D. L. and Parson, Jack (eds.), Politics and Society in Botswana (Gaborone, 1976), pp. 319–38.Google Scholar

page 641 note 4 Landell-Mills, loc. cit.

page 641 note 5 See Johns, Sheridan, ‘Botswana's Strategy for Development: an assessment of dependence in the Southern African context’, in Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies (Leicester), XI, 3, 1973, pp. 214–31.Google Scholar

page 641 note 6 Table 17. Development Budget Expenditure and Finance, 1966–7 to 1976/7, in Cohen and Parson, op. cit. p. 291.

page 642 note 1 See Rural Development in Botswana (Gaborone, 1972); Chambers, Robert and Feldman, D., Report on Rural Development (Gaborone, 1973)Google Scholar; and National Policy on Tribal Grazing Land (Gaborone, 1975).Google Scholar

page 642 note 2 These figures are taken from Tables 1 and 3 of Parson, Jack, ‘A Note on the 1974 General Election in Botswana and the U.B.L.S. Election Study’, in Botswana Notes and Records, 7, 1975, pp. 78–9.Google Scholar

page 642 note 3 See, for example, Jackson, Dudley, ‘Income Differentials and Unbalanced Planning - the Case of Botswana’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, VIII, 4, 12 1970, pp. 553–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Landell-Mills, P. M., ‘Rural Incomes and Urban Wage Rates’, in Botswana Notes and Records, 2, 1970, pp. 7985.Google Scholar

page 642 note 4 The Rural Income Distribution Survey in Botswana, 1974/75 (Gaborone, 1976), pp. 84, 102, and 111.

page 642 note 5 Parson, loc. cit. p. 79. The eligible population has been calculated by Helen Young from the census figures.

page 642 note 6 Holm, John D., ‘Rural Development in Botswana: three basic political trends’, in Rural Africana (East Lansing), 1972, pp. 8092.Google Scholar

page 643 note 1 This information is from a mailed questionnaire sent to all candidates in the 1974 general election, although the full results are as yet unpublished.

page 643 note 2 This research was conducted in conjunction with the then on-going Rural Income Distribution Survey by kind permission of Derek Hudson and Claus Norloff of the Central Statistics Office.

page 643 note 3 The 1974 survey and subsequent analysis were financed by a generous grant from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Full details, including the results, are to be found in Jack Parson, ‘Aspects of Political Culture in Botswana: results of an exploratory survey’, Gaborone, 1976, and this mimeographed report is available from the author on request.

page 643 note 4 Cf. Oberschall, Anthony, ‘Communications, Information and Aspirations in Rural Uganda’, in Journal of Asian and African Studies (Toronto), IV, 1, 1969 pp. 40–1Google Scholar; and Hayward, Fred M., ‘A Reassessment of Conventional Wisdom About the Informed Public: national political information in Ghana’, in American Political Science Review (Menasha), LXX, 2, 1976, pp. 435–6.Google Scholar

page 643 note 5 The Botswana Government made a grant of nearly R20 million to this special Accelerated Rural Development Programme in order to increase dramatically the speed with which projects were being implemented in the rural areas.

page 644 note 1 The percentages are in respect of a weighted number of responses for each question, and these ranged narrowly from 58,359 to 60,770, apart from a ‘low’ of 55,348 concerning intention to vote and a ‘high’ of 63,777 concerning rural development.

page 644 note 2 The questions were as follows: ‘Who is the President of Botswana?’, ‘Who is the presen Member of Parliament for your constituency? Who represents you in the National Assembly in Gaborone?’, ‘Who is your District Councillor?’, and ‘In your village, or near your village, are there any new teachers’ quarters, roads, latrines, water taps, boreholes, or health clinics that have been built since the rains ended this year?’

page 644 note 3 For the exact wording of these questions, see Parson, ‘Aspects of Political Culture in Botswana’, op. cit.

page 645 note 1 This category may mean that people have little or no contact with the Administration, but it may also indicate that some would rather plead ignorance than say that certain officials have been unhelpful. If this is the case, then negative feelings are more general than the data indicate.

page 645 note 2 At the very least this result would not support the argument that non-voting in 1974 was a measure of popular satisfaction with the existing situation, unless of course it is assumed that people want to maintain the status quo.

It is more likely that non-voting is a measure of apathy in the face of intractible poverty or actual dissatisfaction, but without any perception that this may be expressed through voting, for example, for the opposition. This may be due in part to the apparent weakness of the opposition parties, both structurally and in their candidates. See Vengroff, Richard, ‘LocalCentral Linkages and Political Development in Botswana’, Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University, 1972Google Scholar; and Parson, ‘A Note’, loc. cit.

page 645 note 3 ‘High’ income is defined as P2,400+ per year or 80+ cattle. ‘Medium’ income is less than this, but having at least two dwellings – for example, one in a village and one at the ‘lands’ where crops are grown. ‘Low’ income means having one dwelling only.

page 645 note 4 Report on the Population Census, 1971 (Gaborone, 1972), Table 3.

page 645 note 5 See Parson, ‘Aspects of Political Culture in Botswana’, Tables 10–12; and The Rural Income Distribution Survey, p. 89. The towns in turn are younger, better educated, and wealthier than the large villages. See Report on the Population Census, Tables 13.5 and 13.6; and LandellMills, ‘Rural Incomes and Urban Wage Rates’, loc. cit.

page 646 note 1 Ministry of Agriculture Seminar, Gaborone, November 1976.

page 646 note 2 Cf. Schapera, , A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, pp. 28–9Google Scholar, and Married Life in an African Tribe, pp. 104–38; Bond, C. A., Women's Involvement in Agriculture in Botswana (Gaborone, 1974)Google Scholar; and Vengroff. op. cit.

page 648 note 1 Cf. Holm, John D., Dimensions of Mass Involvement in Botswana: a test of alternative theories (Beverly Hills, 1974).Google Scholar

page 649 note 1 Oberschall, op. cit. p. 40. See also Peil, Margaret, Nigerian Politics: the people's view (London, 1976).Google Scholar

page 649 note 2 Hayward, op. cit. p. 436, Cites surveys which showed that the percentage of respondents in the United States who could name their Representative in Congress was 38 in 1947, 46 in 1966, and 53 in 1970. See also Almond, Gabriel and Verba, Sidney, The Civic Culture (Boston, 1965),Google Scholar where it is stated that in the United Kingdom 20 per cent could not even name one political party leader, and only 42 per Cent could name four or more.

page 649 note 3 Almond and Verba reported in ibid. that in the United States 24 per cent expressed mixed or indifferent feelings when asked in 1963 if the Government had improved conditions.

page 649 note 4 Represented, for example, by Almond and Powell, op. cit.

page 649 note 5 Cf. Olson, Mancur Jr., ‘Rapid Growth as a Destabilizing Force’, reprinted in Finkle, Jason L. and Gable, Richard W. (eds.), Political Development and Social Change (New York, 1971), pp. 557–68.Google Scholar