Much like First World countries, Botswana used to get a perfect score (10) in the component of “Military Interference in Rule of Law and Politics” in Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Index.
That was the case in 2000, 2005 and 2010 but hasn’t been since. In the latest report, which tracks this component up to 2015, Botswana’s score has been stuck at 8.33 since 2014.
Making a comparison with South Africa, the report notes: “The best performing component within Area 2 [Legal Systems and Property Rights] has been 2D: Military Interference in Rule of Law and Politics with a steady score of 8.33 since 2000. This compares favorably with the score in the pre-transition period in South Africa and with the ongoing situation in most of the rest of Africa. In contrast, neighboring Botswana’s score for 2D has recently fallen from 10 to converge with South Africa’s 8.33.” Namibia is the only SADC country with a perfect score on this component.
The data that Fraser Institute, a credible Canadian think tank, uses to construct its index ratings are drawn from external sources. In the particular case of the military, the data is drawn from the International Country Risk Guide, a United States-based consultancy firm that conducts political and country risk forecasts. The latter’s methods have been shown to be predictive of risk realisations. Botswana is among 140 countries that the ICRG monitors. The Fraser Institute supplements ICRG’s forecasts with “Political Stability and Absence of Violence” ratings from the World Bank’s Governance Indicators project.
Fraser Institute says that since the military is not elected, its involvement in politics – even at a peripheral level, diminishes democratic accountability: “Military involvement might stem from an external or internal threat, be symptomatic of underlying difficulties, or be a full-scale military takeover. Over the long term, a system of military government will almost certainly diminish effective governmental functioning, become corrupt, and create an uneasy environment for foreign businesses.”
Ironically, during a debate in the last session of parliament, Gabane-Mankgodi MP, Major General Pius Mokgware, described a scenario that suggests that it is politicians who are interfering in military affairs. A former member of the Botswana Defence Force high command, Mokgware said that he was kicked out of the army when he spurned an overture to join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
If who holds presidential office at a time that a study is conducted is of any relevance at all, the component in question scored highest under civilian presidents and declined under a former soldier ÔÇô President Ian Khama. Throughout his administration, which ends on April 1 next year, Khama has sought to militarise what is officially a civilian government, appointing former army aides to very important positions that they are ill-qualified for. The official trading hours for liquor that were introduced when he took over in 2008 are similar to those that the army has long used.