Saturday, January 28, 2023

Batswana want President to be held accountable

Afrobarometer’s Round 8 survey (2019) shows that citizens overwhelmingly endorse democracy and reject one-person rule without accountability.

According to the latest Afrobarometer report by Professor Mogopodi Lekorwe and Wilford Molefe, most (Batswana) insist that their president be accountable to Parliament and obey the country’s laws and courts, even if he thinks they are wrong.”

Batswana overwhelmingly (93%) reject one-person rule without accountability through Parliament and elections.

“Three-fourths (76%) of citizens say the president should be accountable to Parliament for how his government spends taxpayers’ money. An even greater majority (80%) say he must always obey the country’s laws and courts, even if he thinks they are wrong,” states the report.

In practice, 55% of Batswana say their president “never” ignores Parliament or the laws and courts. Batswana overwhelmingly prefer democracy (72%) over any other form of government.

Small minorities say a non-democratic government can be preferable (14%) or think it doesn’t matter what type of government they have (13%). Support for democracy is stronger among men (75%) and urban residents (75%) than among women (69%) and rural dwellers (70%) (Figure 2). It increases with age, ranging from 66% among 18- to 25-year-olds to 84% among those over age 65.

In practice, three-fourths (75%) of citizens see their country as a well-functioning democracy (“a full democracy” or “a democracy with minor problems”). This perception has been fairly steady over time.

Rural residents (80%) are more likely than urban or semi-urban residents (73%) to say Botswana is a well-functioning democracy. This assessment is also somewhat more common among younger respondents (77% of those aged 18-45 years) than among their elders (71% of those aged over 65 years).

Like their neighbours, Batswana overwhelmingly insist on elections and Parliament as checks on the executive. More than nine out of 10 citizens (93%) “disapprove” or “strongly disapprove” of the idea of abolishing elections and Parliament and letting the president decide everything. This view, too, has varied little over time (Figure 5), and is strong across all key demographic groups.

Among seven countries in the region, Botswana joins Mauritius (94%) and Zambia (91%) at the top in rejecting one-person rule, but strong majorities share the same view in all countries. Moreover, three-fourths (76%) of Batswana say Parliament should ensure that the president explains to it on a regular basis how his government spends taxpayers’ money. Only about one in five (22%) agree that instead of wasting his time justifying his actions, the president should be able to devote his full attention to developing the country.

Again, Botswana ranks near the top among seven Southern African countries in insisting on presidential accountability to Parliament. Angola is the only country where fewer than half (46%) of citizens agree that Parliament should monitor the president’s actions.

In practice, most Batswana (73%) say their president “never” (55%) or “rarely” (18%) ignores Parliament and just does what he wants, though 13% say this happens “often” or “always”.

The view that the president ignores Parliament at least on occasion (“rarely,” “often,” or “always”) is more widespread among the best-educated (41% of those with post-secondary qualifications) than their less-educated counterparts (22%-30%) (Figure 10). Men (34%) are more likely than women (28%) to report this perception, as are urban (31%) and semi-urban (35%) residents compared to rural dwellers (25%).

Batswana also overwhelmingly (80%) insist that their president must always obey the country’s laws and courts, even if he disagrees with them (Figure 11). Only 17% of respondents believe that since the president was elected to lead the country, he should not be bound by laws or court decisions that he thinks are wrong.

The view that the president should not be bound by laws and courts is especially unpopular among citizens with post-secondary education (only 9% “agree” or “strongly agree,” vs. 17%- 24% of less educated respondents) and among urban residents (13%, vs. 18% of semi-urban and rural dwellers).

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Read this week's paper