Monday, June 24, 2024

Botswana’s democracy not yet mature

There are many things we should pride ourselves with as Batswana as we continue in the march to engender our democratic culture.

Democracy is a process. It is not an event.

It needs to be continuously nurtured.

Yet for some reason, Batswana like to claim a moral high ground on topics of democracy.

Our government often gets preachy when talking about democratic ideals.

We tend to exaggerate our democratic achievements and credentials. And downplay our democratic flaws and shortcomings.

We often get ahead of ourselves in our quest to be seen to be more democratic than other African countries.

In more ways than one, for example, Zambia is more democratic than Botswana.

So too is Kenya.

One thing we have to pride ourselves with is the fact that elections are and post elections are never characterized by violence over the results.

Unfortunately Kenya has a bad history of post-election violence.

There are several things that need to happen before a democracy can really claim its true kudos.

One of those is that it has to undergo a seamless transition – from the ruling party to opposition.

There have been periodic elections in Botswana since independence in 1966 – without fail.

With the exception of 2019, Botswana’s election results have never been heavily contested.

Botswana has been ruled by one party for over fifty years.

This means that Botswana has not had a transfer of power from the ruling party to a party in opposition.

These factors are inherently inimical to a true definition of democracy.

We need to do more and be honest if we are to entrench our democracy.

Thankfully the thirst for democratic representation is growing among the youth.

They are spurred on by unemployment and a lack of opportunity.

The young people in Botswana genuinely feel that they owe nothing to the current government.

Many of them have been trained at expensive schools abroad, but can’t find a job.

Those who would want to start a business can’t do that because the market remains small and foreign dominated.

Young Batswana have kept the faith that democracy is the best way of government.

Although they have lived all their lives under one part they have also kept the belief that a change of government is possible through a vote.

To this faith, both the opposition and the ruling party have a duty to ensure that rules of the game are honoured to the letter.

Clearly patience is running out for the status quo.

Young Batswana feel that they are being denied their future.

A democracy that fails to deliver economic success fails to endear itself to its people beyond the use of trickery and force.

There is evidence that Africa is peddling on democracy.

Countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and many others have digressed.

We need as a country to avoid veering into that route.

Multitudes of leaders in Africa today are former military men.

There is no shortage of sponsorship for dictatorship in Africa.

China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries are always waiting in the wings to boost a failing dictatorship.

As Botswana we have a duty to guard against all those.

We need to ensure that our democracy survives. One way to do that is to ensure that our democracy is more tolerant of public protests.

It is self-defeating to make a demand that protestors should get permission from police before they protest.

Political activity is part of a constitutional democracy.

Anything else is a dictatorship by another name.

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