Saturday, June 15, 2024

Majority of Batswana favour discussing politics at the Kgotla

Despite the fact that members of parliament (MPs) from the ruling party and the opposition have previously accused one another of using community consultative kgotla meetings to solicit votes, few lawmakers could have predicted that the majority of Batswana would support a framework in which politics would be discussed at the kgotla.

A survey conducted by Afrobarometer – a pan-African, independent, non-partisan research network that gauges the public’s attitudes about economic, political, and social issues in Africa – notes that over 60% of respondents thought that the kgotla should permit citizens to freely discuss any topic, including potentially sensitive political ones.

“Almost two-thirds (63%) of citizens say that the institution of kgotla serves as the foundation for Botswana’s democracy and should therefore be open to discussing all issues affecting communities, including political matters. About one-third (32%) of citizens disagree,” notes the survey.

Furthermore, the survey notes that a resounding majority of Batswana believe that the institution of chieftainship (bogosi) is still relevant in contemporary Botswana and should not be abolished. “Only about one in five Batswana (18%) think that the institution of chieftainship (bogosi) is outdated and should be abolished. Fully 80% disagree, including 48% who “strongly disagree”, reads part of the survey.

While the survey shows that 73% of respondents say “a chief who wants to enter politics should renounce his position as a chief, suggesting that Batswana value non-partisan traditional leadership,” history shows that some chiefs in Botswana have played a role in politics, either actively or inactively. Others have even been accused of being political activists and others as political appeasers.

Some observers say politicians and political parties have acted hypocritically on this matter by only criticising chiefs who support the opposing party. Chiefs who toe a political party’s line are not branded as political, but those who reject a particular political party are disparaged. “Government should leave the kgotla to the chiefs and their subjects and use other facilities, such as school halls, for discussions about government affairs. For far too long, the government has encroached on chiefs’ territory, and the kgotla is now considered a government institution,” said one observer on condition of anonymity.

The issue of politicians and political parties using the kgotla for political gain has always existed. This issue even became so contentious resulting in one of the tribes in Botswana being barred from discussing politically heated topics. Both the current president Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, and the former president, Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, have been accused of using the kgotla as a sophisticated ruse to canvass votes, while disguising their actions behind the pretense of consulting the nation.

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