While Botswana has long enjoyed high international standing on the rule of law and democracy, ordinary Batswana feel that corruption is on the rise citing the National Petroleum Fund case, a new report released by Afrobarometer has revealed. The report released in August and authored by Thomas Isbell and Batlang Seabo says over the past decade, perceptions of corruption in the Presidency and Parliament have increased sharply, and only half of citizens approve of the government’s performance in fighting corruption.
While a majority of Batswana say that ordinary citizens can do their part in reducing corruption, they believe that reporting corruption carries a risk of retaliation, and many have doubts about whether those accused of corruption will be prosecuted and punished. The duo’s findings suggest a number of insights for policy makers and activists: Increasing corruption lessens how much democracy Batswana feel they are getting. Perceptions that corruption is increasing over time are significantly correlated with lower perceptions of Botswana as a functioning democracy and less satisfaction with the way its democracy is working (i.e. less perceived supply of democracy). “The regression models suggest that perceived corruption in the Presidency is strongly associated with less trust in government institutions as well as lower levels of perceived supply of democracy,” the report says The authors added: “We find no significant effect for perceived corruption among members of Parliament and local government councillors. The president must lead by example!” Batswana who think the government is doing a good job of fighting corruption are more likely to feel that their democracy is working and that elected leaders and state institutions are trustworthy, the authors said.
“Botswana’s exceptionality as an example of democracy, good governance, and the rule of law is being questioned in the light of recent corruption and official misconduct scandals. Given the way that perceptions of corruption and of the government’s anti-corruption efforts tie in with citizens’ trust and views of democracy, addressing corruption will be important for how Botswana moves forward,” the report says.According to the report, 50% of Batswana say corruption increased “somewhat” or “a lot” over the previous year, while only two out of 10 (21%) believe that it decreased and about the same proportion (19%) say it remained unchanged.
Among key elected and non-elected officials, the Presidency, Parliament, and civil servants are most widely seen as corrupt. About one-third of respondents say that “most” or “all” officials in the Presidency (34%), members of Parliament (32%), and civil servants (32%) are corrupt, followed closely by the police (30%). Fewer citizens see widespread corruption among traditional leaders (12% “most” or “all”), judges and magistrates (16%), tax officials (18%), and religious leaders (19%). Generally, there is an increasing trend, over the past decade, in the view that most/all officials in the presidential office, Parliament, and local councils are involved in corruption. Between 2008 and 2019, this view increased by 26 percentage points for the Presidency, 17 points for MPs, and 7 points for local councillors (despite a 6-point drop between 2017 and 2019.Despite perceptions of increasing corruption, a majority (56%) of Batswana say the government is performing “fairly well” or “very well” in fighting corruption.
But this reflects a significant decline in positive assessments over the past decade (from 69% in 2008). Still, the Botswana government’s marks on fighting corruption are better than those in most countries across the continent. In the most recent complete round of Afrobarometer surveys (in 34 countries in 2016/2018), on average just 36% of respondents described their government’s performance as “fairly” or “very” good.Several other Southern African governments received below-average ratings, including Madagascar (10% approval), Malawi (19%), Zimbabwe (22%), Zambia (24%), and South African (25%).Most Batswana would support an additional step to reduce corruption in public procurement: 80% say politicians and senior public servants should be excluded from public tenders.Despite considerable media coverage, only one in three Batswana (35%) say they have heard about the NPF scandal, the report shows.Citizens with post-secondary education (69%) and urban residents (51%) are more likely to be aware of the allegations then their less-educated and rural counterparts (not shown).Among those who had heard about the scandal, the overwhelming majority (82%) say they are “very concerned” about the alleged embezzlements, in addition to 13% who say they are “somewhat concerned”Respondents who were aware of the scandal are about evenly divided between those who think it’s likely (“somewhat” or “very”) that those accused of misappropriating funds from the NPF will be prosecuted in court (47%) and those who consider prosecution unlikely (49%).
Perceived chances of the accused being prosecuted appear to be associated with perceived corruption in the courts. Among Batswana who say no judges or magistrates are corrupt, a majority (54%) think it’s likely that the accused will be prosecuted. But among respondents who see widespread corruption among judges and magistrates, only 40% say prosecution in the NPF case is likely.