Friday, January 22, 2021

Botswana on political knife edge ÔÇô US Dept of State warns

Botswana which is heading to the polls later this year is facing an uncertain economic and political future because it is tilting towards an authoritarian rule due to weak democratic institutions in the form of Parliament and the Judiciary.

The startling warning is obtained from documents gleaned from the United States Government’s Department of State.

The United States Government is scared that Botswana is not only facing uncertain political future but is also on the verge of losing its positive democratic credentials.

In a document that articulates the U.S. priorities in a given country referred to as the Integrated Country Strategy (ICS), the US states that “public dissatisfaction with the ruling party’s inability to deliver on job creation has increased as well as the possibility that the opposition-if organized-may win the 2019 elections.”

In his State of the Nation Address last year President Mokgweetsi Masisi acknowledged that unemployment in the country was a cause for concern and pledged to make job creation his priority but that is yet to be seen.  

The US document notes that the “political and economic model that bolstered Botswana’s remarkable success is no longer able to assure its future.”

The document further states that “Botswana’s democratic success belies concerns over governance and human rights issues.”  

According to the document, “the consolidated power in the executive branch undermines the authority of Parliament and Judiciary to serve as credible, independent bodies.”  

“Decisions taken now will determine if it will maintain its status as an upper middle income country. Botswana remains overly dependent on diamond mining which is volatile and susceptible to decrease in demand yet accounts for 80 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and approximately one-third of government revenue,” reads the document.

 It says the reliance on diamonds has led to slow deterioration of economic conditions in Botswana. Once diamond mining ceases to be profitable, Botswana’s economy will be significantly impacted with some observers claiming GDP per capita could plummet by up to 50 percent, the document also reads in part.

The US Government also expressed concern in the same document that “Botswana has also experienced real stresses and growing pains; decades of stability and growth have led to a sense of complacency and insularity at a time when the country is faces serious challenges with economic stability, health and governance.”

The US Government observed that “Botswana’s future success requires improved health outcomes for its people; protection and sustainable management of its resources, particularly its wildlife and ecosystem, business growth and employment opportunities, especially for its youth and strengthened democratic institutions.”

In justifying its concerns, the US stated that it is in its best interest that “Botswana continues to be successful and remains a strong and stable American partner that can provide positive leadership in international for and regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC).”

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