A win for Botswana?

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

With an 11th straight vic­tory for the Botswana Demo­cratic Party’s (BDP), gain­ing 37 out of 57 elected seats (64.9%), Pres­i­dent Ian Khama was sworn in for a sec­ond term.

Re­cently 824 073 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers regis­tered to vote in the coun­try, which is re­garded as one of Africa’s strong­est democ­ra­cies. The elec­tion was hailed as one of the most com­pet­i­tive elec­tions for Botswana, this ac­cord­ing to the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC).

In a state­ment made on 26 Oc­to­ber, High Court Chief Jus­tice Marup­ing Di­botelo said that Khama “has been re­elected as the pres­i­dent of the repub­lic after his po­lit­i­cal party, the Botswana Demo­cratic Party, gar­nered at least 34 of the 57 seats”. (The tally was still on­go­ing when this state­ment was re­leased.)

How­ever, what made this elec­tion, held on 24 Oc­to­ber, such a piv­otal one in the his­tory of Botswana was that it was the first time that the BDP, in power since 1966, would bat­tle it out with a party that had split away from it, the Botswana Move­ment for Democ­racy – which con­tested the elec­tions as part of the Um­brella for Demo­cratic Change (UDC), which con­sists of a fed­er­a­tion of par­ties.

This year, cit­i­zens had three po­lit­i­cal par­ties to choose from: the rul­ing BDP, Botswana Congress Party ( BCP) – claimed to be the fastest-grow­ing party in the coun­try – and the Um­brella for Demo­cratic Change (UDC).

Khama’s win wasn’t as ef­fort­less as he would have liked, how­ever. Amid ru­mours of cor­rup­tion in the rul­ing party, with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials be­ing ac­cused in par­tic­u­lar – such as damn­ing ev­i­dence of cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties against the di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity Isaac Kgosi – the BDP man­aged to pull off a win. In a re­cent BDP rally be­fore the elec­tion, the pres­i­dent even went so far as to claim that the ru­mours of cor­rup­tion were fab­ri­cated by the me­dia and were the “fer­tile imag­i­na­tion of the op­po­si­tion and their al­lies in the pri­vate me­dia”, in or­der to gar­ner and re­tain support. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that the op­po­si­tion par­ties were hardly men­tioned in the state me­dia. Un­for­tu­nately, while pri­vate me­dia re­ported cov­er­age of all par­ties, those in the most ru­ral ar­eas of Botswana were only able to re­ceive state me­dia and the pro­pa­ganda aired across its net­works. What’s more, pri­vate news­pa­pers have been in­un­dated with petty le­gal cases and there have even been in­ci­dences of jour­nal­ists travel doc­u­ments be­ing with­drawn. Not cor­rupt? Ques­tion­able.

One also has to ques­tion where the fund­ing came for the BDP’s cam­paign drive. In Botswana there is no po­lit­i­cal party fund­ing law – with sources of the fund­ing shrouded in se­crecy. The BDP had 57 branded ve­hi­cles for its cam­paign – with the es­ti­mated costs run­ning into mil­lions of Pula. That said, rather than be­ing an ex­tremely volatile and com­pet­i­tive elec­tion process, it was smoother and more peace­ful than ex­pected, much to the sur­prise of the rul­ing party.

Says US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry: “I con­grat­u­late the peo­ple of Botswana on their suc­cess­ful par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. In­ter­na­tional ob­servers have de­clared the elec­tion free, fair and trans­par­ent. I com­mend all Batswana who turned out in over­whelm­ing num­bers to par­tic­i­pate in your 11th par­lia­men­tary elec­tion since in­de­pen­dence in 1966.”

While some may claim that Botswana is do­ing some­thing right in terms of its demo­cratic process, the peo­ple of Botswana may have some­thing else to say en­tirely.

ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

Pres­i­dent Ian Khama

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