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Towards Popular Participation in Botswana

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008


Despite a competitive party system and regular free-and-fair elections, Botswana's polity has been characterised for almost 30 years by considerable authoritarianism focused on the extensive powers of the Presidency and based upon a hierarchical and highly inequitable society.1 But pressures have recently arisen within the country for more openness, participation, and equality, and their growing effects were clearly evident in the October 1994 elections and in the widespread disturbances soon after.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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1 See Good, Kenneth, ‘Authoritarian Liberalism: a defining characteristic of Botswana’, in Journal of Contemporary African Studies (Grahamstown), 14, 1, 01 1996.Google Scholar

2 Wiseman, John A. and Charlton, Roger, ‘The October 1994 Elections in Botswana’, in Electoral Studies (Guildford), 14, 1, 1995, p. 3. Ministers had, for example, begun their campaigning much earlier as part of their on-going, and publicly funded, programmes of consultation.Google Scholar

3 Zaffiro, James J., ‘The New World Order from a Botswana Perspective’, in Africa Insight (Pretoria), 25, 2, 1995, p. 104.Google Scholar

4 Botswana, Democratic Party, Election Manifesto 1994 (Gaborone, 08 1994), pp. 36.Google Scholar

5 The above cases and the lack of accountability are considered by Good, Kenneth, ‘Corruption and Mismanagement in Botswana: a best-case example?’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), 32, 3, 09 1994, pp. 499521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6 Election Manifesto 1994, pp. 4 and 8.

7 Ibid. p. 7.

8 For the nature and costs of the economic growth experienced over more than two decades see, for example, Good, Kenneth, ‘At the Ends of the Ladder: radical inequalities in Botswana’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 31, 2, 06 1993, pp. 203–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Election Manifesto 1994, p. 13. Where the existence of a problem was to some extent recognised in the BDP manifesto, the governing party's response was usually to propose the creation of a review committee of the improvement of established policies.Google Scholar

10 The manifesto of the Botswana National Front (BNF) was very weak in this regard, promising, for example, to introduce a citizen army, and to radically change the nature and composition of the country's political institutions, without consideration of the feasibility, consequences, and cost of the proposals. BNF, Manifesto for the General Elections 1994 (Gaborone, 1994), preamble and section 14 on defence and security.Google Scholar

11 Botswana Gazette (Gaborone), 12 10 1994.Google Scholar

12 Ibid. 7 September 1994.

13 Guardian (Gaborone), 7 October 1994,Google Scholar and Mmegi (Gaborone), 14 10 1994.Google Scholar

14 Patrick Molutsi, ‘The Civil Society and Democracy in Botswana: an overview’, Conference on Civil Society and Democracy in Botswana, Gaborone, 25–27 October 1994, p. 12.

15 Ikanyeng Malila, ‘Civil Society in Botswana: women's organisations’, Ibid. 25–27 10 1995, pp. 8 and 10–11.

16 Ibid. p. 4.

17 Molutsi, op. cit.

18 Maundeni, Zibani, ‘A Report of the Democracy Research Project’, Conference on Civil Society and Democracy in Botswana, Gaborone, 25–27 10 1995, p. 37.Google Scholar

19 Malila, op. cit. p. 6.

20 Molomo, Mpho, ‘Theoretical and Conceptual Issues About Civil Society’, Conference on Civil Society and Democracy in Botswana, Gaborone, 25–27 10 1995, p. 12.Google Scholar

21 Unity Dow is a Motswana woman married to an American, who had been seeking amendments to the Citizenship Act which would confer the same rights of inheritance upon her children as those enjoyed by Batswana men. Although the High Court had found in her favour, the Masire Government had opposed the decision.

22 Botswana Gazette, 28 09 1994.Google Scholar

23 Takirambudde, Peter, ‘Botswana’, in Baehr, Peter et al. (eds.), Human Rights in Developing Countries: Yearbook 1995 (Bergen and Utrecht, 1995), pp. 134–5.Google Scholar

24 Botswana Gazette, 28 09 1994.Google Scholar

25 Myths epitomised, for example, in the very title of the classic book by Thomas, Elizabeth Marshall, The Harmless People (London and New York, 1959, re-issued by Philip, David, Cape Town, 1988).Google Scholar

26 Gordon, Robert, ‘Bushman Banditry in Twentieth-Century Namibia’, in Crummey, Donald (ed.), Banditry, Rebellion and Social Protest in Africa (London, 1986), pp. 173–89.Google Scholar

27 Hitchcock, Robert K., ‘Settlements and Survival: what future for the Remote Area Dwellers of Botswana?’, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 13 10 1995, p. 6.Google Scholar

28 Hitchcock, op. cit. and Good, ‘At the Ends of the Ladder’, pp. 205–21.

29 Robert K. Hitchcock and John D. Holm, ‘Grassroots Political Organizing Among Kalahari Bushmen’, pp. 3–4.

30 According to Mmegi, 26 08 1994, Hardbattle, John and Johannis, Aaron recalled the Assistant Minister as telling their San delegation: ‘You think that these outsiders [donor and aid agencies] will always help you, well, one of these days they will be gone and there will only be us, and we own you and we will own you till the end of time and you will not achieve what you want.’Google Scholar See also, Good, ‘At the Ends of the Ladder’, pp. 229–30.

31 Hitchcock and Holm, op. cit. pp. 5–6.

32 Mmegi, 9 09 1994,Google Scholar and The Sun (Gaborone), 21 09 1994.Google Scholar

33 The Sun, 27 04 1994,Google Scholar and Guardian, 10 06 1994. The BDP's long-term incumbent for the Ghanzi constituency, Johnny Swartz, a local businessman, received 3,097 votes as against 2,671 for Peba Sethantsho, who subsequently became the BNF's deputy secretary-general.Google Scholar

34 Holm and Hitchcock, op. cit. p. 6. While the notion of ‘rural civil society’ appears to be something of a misnomer, it is used by several writers on Botswana democracy in reference to rural community action.

35 The Council of Women is described by Malila, op. cit. pp. 8 and 10, as being of ‘the older branch’ of the women's movement, with a ‘conservative attitude’ on issues, while the YWCA has begun to add a tentative ‘feminist consciousness’ to its established humanitarian concerns.

36 Molutsi, op. cit. p. 11.

37 Molomo, op. cit. p. 5.

38 It should be noted that the concept of ‘civil society in Botswana’ utilised by Molutsi and others specifically excludes parties, and tends to take a narrow definition of politics.

39 Wiseman and Charlton, loc. cit. p. 3.

40 Mmegi, 7 10 1994.Google Scholar

41 Ibid. 14 Novembr 1994.

42 Midweek Sun (Gaborone), 19 10 1994.Google Scholar

43 Rachai, Chadwa and Tsheko, B. O., ‘Economic Challenges Following the 1994 General Election’, in Barclays Botswana Economic Review (Gaborone), 3rd edn. 1994, p. 3,Google Scholar and Republic of Botswana, , Report to the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration on the General Election, 1994 (Gaborone, Government Printer, 1994), Appendix E, p. 101. The figure of 54·4 per cent for the BDP in 1994 is from the official Report.Google Scholar

44 Ibid. The figure of 37 per cent for the BNF is from the official Report.

45 In translating the popular vote into seats won in Parliament, first-past-the-post tends to disadvantage smaller parties and to favour ‘strong government’. The BNF with 36 per cent of the vote won 13 seats, while the BDP with 56 per cent – only 20 per cent more – got 27 seats, more than double the opposition's representation.

46 The official Report, Appendix F, pp. 106–8.Google Scholar

47 See Maundeni, op. cit. p. 37, for a limited and partial exception to this tendency which occurred in 1994, when Lesedi La Botswana, led by Eitlhopa Mosyini, broke away from the BDP.

48 Lotlamoreng, in Mmegi, 7 10 1994.Google Scholar

49 Molomo, op. cit. p. 4.

50 Ramsay, Jeff, in Botswana Gazette, 26 10 1995.Google Scholar

51 Ibid.

52 Moeti, Mesh and Mothibi, Mike, in Mmegi, 21 10 1994.Google Scholar

53 Quoted in full in Guardian, 21 10 1994.Google Scholar

54 Maundeni, op. cit. pp. 11–14.

55 Rachai and Tsheko, op. cit. p. 4.

56 Maundeni, op. cit. pp. 29–35, who also reports that a majority of the women voters, unlike the men, supported the BDP.

57 Rachai and Tsheko, op. cit. pp. 4–5.

58 The Sun, 12 10 1994.Google Scholar

59 Sandy Grant, ‘Etcetera, Etcetera’, in Ibid. 26 10 1994.

60 Grant, , ‘The Future – Up or Down?’, in Guardian, 21 10 1994.Google Scholar

61 The Sun, 26 10 1994.Google Scholar

62 Both Presidential Commissions of Inquiry are discussed in Good, ‘Corruption and Mismanagement in Botswana’, pp. 502–4.

63 Ibid. pp. 505–6.

64 Mmegi, 28 10 1994.Google Scholar

65 Taolo Lucas and Boingotlo Toteng, in Ibid.

66 Ibid. and Guardian, 11 November 1994.

67 Ibid.

68 Eisenstadt, Abraham S., ‘Political Corruption in American History’, in Heidenheimer, Arnold J., Johnston, Michael, and Le Vine, Victor T. (eds.), Political Corruption: a handbook (London, 1993), p. 538.Google Scholar

69 Mmegi, 4 11 1994, according to figures from the BDP's electoral college in Thamaga said to be in the paper's ‘possession’.Google Scholar

70 Botswana Gazette, 30 11 1994.Google Scholar

71 This official version stresses the storming of Parliament by determined demonstrators, and might well be true. But other accounts speak of crowds milling outside the Assembly, of pressure coming from behind the protesters, and of chaos resulting after the first tear-gas canisters had been fired.

72 Daily News (Gaborone), 20 02 1995.Google Scholar

73 Statement by the Red Cross public relations officer, Moswetzi, Peter, in Botswana Gazette, 22 02 1995.Google Scholar

74 Ibid.

75 Details reported in The Sun, 22 02 1995.Google Scholar

76 Ibid.

77 As noted in, for example, Mmegi, 24 02 1995.Google Scholar

78 Ibid.

79 Botswana Gazette, 22 02 1995.Google Scholar

80 Ibid.

81 This report in The Sun, 22 02 1995,Google Scholar was entitled ‘Sheer Bloody Murder’. Mmegi, 24 02 1995, also published a similar detailed account of how Binto Moroke came to be killed in Mochudi.Google Scholar

82 Daily News, 20 02 1995,Google Scholar and Botswana Gazette, 22 02 1995. The President spoke in Setswana and the phrase ‘will regret it’ is apparently a fairly anodyne version of what he actually said.Google Scholar

83 The Sun, 22 02 1995.Google Scholar

84 Ibid. and Guardian, 24 02 1995.

85 Daily News, 8 03 1995.Google Scholar

86 Chronology of Mmegi, 24 02 1995.Google Scholar

87 Mmegi, 24 02 1995, and Grant, , ‘Mochudi – What Next?Google Scholar

88 The young girl, aged perhaps 13–15 years, stood apparently enraged in front of the two dignitaries. Observers have reported that the children repeatedly declared that both the Minister of Education and the Kgosi had failed to fulfil their responsibilities to them.Google Scholar

89 The Sun, 1 02 1995.Google Scholar

90 Guardian and Mmegi, 17 02 1995.Google Scholar

91 Mmegi, 24 02 1995.Google Scholar

92 Botswana Gazette, 15 02 1995.Google Scholar

93 Mmegi, 17 02 1995.Google Scholar

94 Ibid. 24 Febuary 1995.

95 Ibid.

96 Botswana Gazette, 1 03 1995,Google Scholar and Guardian, 3 03 1995.Google Scholar

97 Press statement in The Sun, 1 03 1995.Google Scholar

98 Botswana Gazette, 8 03 1995.Google Scholar

99 Ibid. 15 March 1995.

100 The Sun, 27 09 1995.Google Scholar

101 Botswana Gazette, 8 03 1995.Google Scholar

102 The Voice (Francistown), 27 05 1995.Google Scholar

103 Daily News, 15 11 1995.Google Scholar

104 Kedikilwe was addressing a conference of senior police officers and firmly recommended that the unlawful behaviour ‘be nipped in the bud’. Botswana Today (Francistown), 7 07 1995. Some two years ago, when it was revealed that President Masire and some Cabinet colleagues were heavily in arrears on outstanding loans with the National Development Bank, ministers had responded by attacking what they then termed the ‘culture of abuse’ in the country.Google Scholar

105 The President's state of the nation address was almost entirely devoted to crime and its punishment. The Sun, 8 11 1995.Google Scholar

106 After years of intra-party squabbling on the issue, a special congress of the BDP in November called for the limitation of the State President's tenure to two terms, and amended its own constitution to provide for the periodic election of the party's president.

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