This past week, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited opened a new chapter in Botswana’s democracy when the company donated P2 million to all political parties that had participated in the last General Elections.
The money was shared proportionally, if that is the correct word.
The formula adopted by KBL is very equitable and very easy to administer.
Perhaps as a sign of maturity, the company also did not dictate to the political parties on how to use the money.
We applaud KBL on that regard as instructions would have caused unnecessary strain between the donor and the benefactors. It would also have amounted to accusations of meddling and possibly trying to micromanage what are supposed to be independent organisations.
The onus is now on political parties to demonstrate accountability.
The BDP, we are told, went away with P1 million, the BNF with P500 000 and the BCP with just over P300 000.
By any standards, this is a lot of money.
In the past, donations of any kind have tended to act as a source of rifts and divisions within Botswana political parties, especially opposition.
Here we are not so much worried with the ruling BDP. This party is used to money and has managed with ease much bigger donations before.
It is the opposition, especially the BNF that we are genuinely concerned about.
We call on the opposition to demonstrate maturity by using the windfall from KBL to enhance their electoral prospects rather than spend time fighting amongst themselves over who of their leaders gets what.
On a more serious note, we have noted with satisfaction the fact that KBL did not just donate, but went an extra mile by also declaring such donations.
There is no law that compels the company to have donated much less to have declared.
This is just sheer good corporate governance at play.
It is our hope that other companies and individuals that have been making clandestine donations to political parties will heed this example.
A few years ago, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the organised business lobby group (BOCCIM) undertook a very important study to look at the effects of donations to political parties.
The study went on to recommend state funding of political parties.
But, more crucially, the study highlighted the hazards of political parties receiving covert donations from mysterious and anonymous sources.
The study said there was a real danger that by receiving such money, the parties were effectively delivering themselves into the pockets of the donors who would always call in to ask for favours, especially if benefactors happened to win state power.
The study also said once a political party received a secret donation there was always a risk that once in power, such a party would naturally favour their donors with state contracts at the expense of good corporate governance and other competitors who might not have donated to the party of course.
We call on DCEC and BOCCIM to make public the findings of this report, with the sole aim of starting a public debate surrounding the pros and cons of state funding of political parties.
Once again, we applaud KBL for their pioneering work.
It is not so much that we are grateful ÔÇô that is for the political parties, for they are the recipients, our gratitude is more to the equitable nature of the formula adopted by KBL.
We are also grateful that the corporation has gone an extra mile by publicly declaring their gesture even as they are not, by law, strictly obliged to go public.
A few years ago, as a young boy fresh from college, Dumelang Saleshando lost his job when, as a banker, he intercepted details of a transaction that looked like a donation from overseas destined for the BDP bank account.
The rest, as they say, is history.