Botswana's De Facto One Party Stateship Is Impeding The Country's Development

Similar to her southern Africa peers like Zimbabwe and South Africa, Botswana is virtually a one-party state with the currently ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) having been in governance since the country attained independence from the British in 1966.

Despite having taken the country from being one of the poorest countries in the world in its early years of independence to having one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa whilst also maintaining peace and tranquility within its borders, since the dawn of the tenure of the previous administration, the government of the BDP has been a far cry from the precedent set by the administration of Sir Seretse Khama and other presidents post-independence.

Riddled with daily emerging cases of corruptionever-increasing levels of unemployment and one of the highest levels of inequality in the world amongst other issues, the country is a dissimilitude from the "promising talent" it was after independence. Despite this plummet in the quality of the governance of the BDP over the country's 53 years of independence, one factor that seems to not be changing is the party's performance at the polls.

The 2019 general elections were slated to be the party's biggest challenge up to date with some experts even predicting a hung parliament. When the results came out, it became clear that Batswana had other ideas. Despite facing possibly the strongest opposition in the history of the country's general elections, the BDP managed to garner very impressive numbers both in the parliamentary and local government seats.

Several reasons were presented to try to explain the wide disparity in the predicted and actual performances of the BDP in the 2019 elections with some of them making sense to a certain extent whilst some sounded like excerpts from a script of a "straight to DVD" Hollywood movie.

Regardless of all the reasons which might be suggested for the performance of the BDP in the country's previous elections, one that is everpresent is that the party keeps on coming back to governance because sections of the population continue to believe and vote for it despite its clear shortcomings in governance. The question then becomes, why? Is it a case of blind loyalty to a liberation movement that brought the country independence or perhaps a lack of options for the electorate?

Over the years, several papers have been written by some of the country's most illustrious scholars to try to explain this phenomenon. Their reasons have ranged from the destructive factionalism which has always plagued Botswana's opposition parties to a constitution which is not very opposition friendly.

From assessing these reasons, it becomes clear that several factors including the opposition parties themselves as well the country's own constitution are responsible for turning the country into a de facto one-party state. Nevertheless, the fact that the BDP has remained in governance for 53 consecutive years paints a picture of how diluted the "democracy" which the country prides itself on having upheld over the course of its independence really is.

What is the point of the country calling itself the beacon of democracy in Africa when one party can do whatever it pleases whilst in governance without any repercussions and as a matter of fact even get rewarded with more years in governance for their incompetence? Does that not defeat the whole purpose of democratic principles? How do the citizens expect the party to strive towards bettering the lives of citizens when they reward it for doing the exact opposite?

It is no secret that the current trend of the BDP returning to the government regardless of how abhorrent their rule has been in the years preceding a general election is contributing to their lethargic performance in governance duties and it will continue to do so as long as the country's electorate, opposition parties and constitution continue to also be lethargic in countering their inanition.

The whole point of a multi-party democracy—which Botswana supposedly is—is to ensure that those who are given the responsibility of governing perform that duty tirelessly knowing that should they slack or fail, they can simply be replaced by someone else. If a country fails to punish incompetence but instead choose to reward it, it will continue to suffer whilst still being praised by the international community for being one of the world's best democracies. After all, international reverence for being a "beacon for democracy" will not fix the country's persistent problems which ironically, are caused by this so-called democracy.

A constitutional review to support the activities of opposition parties in order to allow them to actively challenge the ruling party, a shift of mentality of Batswana to stop some of their blind loyalty to the ruling party as well as better organized opposition parties are some of the few options the country should consider to ensure an active and competitive political scene which will ensure that those in governance know that they are there to serve the people and should they fail, the very same people can replace them with others who will perform that duty better.

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