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2019 Elections: It’s a close call for BDP – Security agencies

Publishing Date : 19 August, 2019

Author : LAWRENCE PAGANGA

Botswana’s economy remains stable and is expected to grow this year despite the electorate nervously gearing for the October general election amid serious fighting among rival factions in the ruling party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and other opposition parties.


With political and economic analysts predicting that a divided BDP, in power for the past 58 years, will face stiff challenge from the opposition and fail to garner an overwhelming majority in the coming elections, the country’s economy remains firm and remains attractive for investors. “A divided Botswana Democratic Party will fail to secure an overwhelming majority in the 2019 elections but is expected to remain in power,” an international think-tank, the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted ahead of the country’s watershed national plebiscite.


“(However), the economy will continue to remain heavily mineral-dependent, and as a result economic growth will fluctuate according to external demand and prices for diamonds,” the think-tank said. Other analysts are predicting that the non-mining sectors were expected to pick up further, before and after the election, driven by structural reforms, including an amended immigration law that ensures expeditious processing of work and residence permits while construction was expected to continue benefiting from the on-going fiscal stimulus.



However, despite the positive economic outlook, the October election has been characterised by a number of challenges including massive defections in the ruling BDP, verbal threats and backstabbing among other rivals parties. Former president Ian Khama, who has maintained poor relations with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, left the BDP and has been instrumental in the formation of a new opposition political party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), where he was recently appointed the party’s patron.



“The divisions in the ruling party, which have deepened in 2019, are unlikely to prevent the BDP from retaining a parliamentary majority unless (Pelonomi) Venson-Moitoi and her supporters leave the BDP to form a new organisation or join the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).  We view this as unlikely,” another international security organisation, Garda World projected. 
Venson-Moitoi is a former foreign minister who in April this year withdrew her challenge in the BDP’s internal elections to select its presidential candidate where President Masisi was later nominated. 


In such previous elections, candidates were chosen unopposed. 
Other potential presidential, parliamentary and local council players in the coming election are; the Progressives (AP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
However, regardless of these political intrigues in parties contesting the coming elections and the unpredictable outcome of the results, Botswana’s economy has managed to weather the storm and is expected to remain stable.  
Garda World attributed Botswana’s strong economy in the face of a volatile election period to strong State and private institutions, a low debt burden and efforts to diversify the economy through measures including tax concessions in manufacturing.
“We forecast GDP (Gross Domestic Growth) will grow by 4.6 percent in 2019.


  This is likely to soften in 2010 to 4.3 percent given our forecast of slowing global growth.  Botswana’s operational environment ranks among the best in Africa.  Corruption is not considered a significant problem, with Botswana often being among the best in the region in surveys and indices measuring graft,” Garda World predicted.
However, other analysts said despite Botswana’s operational environment ranking it among the best in Africa, President Masisi was being distracted in carrying out his constitutional duties as the Head of State, as he spends most of his time engaged in fierce battles with his new rival, former president Khama.


As a result, President Masisi is being criticised of failing to create employment for a huge market of unemployed youths, which stands now at 40 percent.  His opponents also accuse President Masisi of making fairy-tale commitments in his election campaigns such as designing an electric car in Botswana when the electorate expects realistic messages from him that will improve their livelihoods.


“Bureaucratic issues, skills shortages, and electricity and water constraints are among operational challenges.  Botswana is under pressing economic conditions with high levels of unemployment within the youth, high numbers of highly trained graduates without jobs, frequent retrenchments in the work place, poor or low wages, worker strikes precipitated by poor government/labour relations, student strikes over unpaid stipends and pressing land issues,” said Garda World.


Freedom House, an international civil rights organisation said President Masisi’s government was not doing enough to protect ordinary workers and ending human trafficking. “Employee abuses in retail stores, the tourism industry, and private security sector are an on-going problem. Botswana lacks a strong regulatory framework for labour brokers that dispatch workers to clients on short-term contracts, in which exploitation is common. Human trafficking remains a challenge,” Freedom House said. President Masisi became the caretaker president of Botswana in April last year, upon the end of the constitutional term of President Khama and he will serve in that capacity until lawmakers elect a new president after the October general election.

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