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Botswana loses its shine as Africa’s beacon of democracy – world study

Known worldwide as Africa’s shining example of democracy, Botswana has this week slipped down further on its world ranking on democracy. According to a recently released 2019 Democracy Index, formulated and compiled by the research firm Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the flawed recent elections are widely to blame.  

Botswana has been categorised under “flawed democracies” among countries like Lesotho, Cape Verde, South Africa, Ghana, and Namibia. Botswana was under the same category also in 2018.  The report further points out that 2019 generally saw setbacks for democracy in Africa, with Botswana having gone through election protests through petitions. However, its states that: “Botswana High court has dismissed electoral fraud petitions and a legal battle regarding disputed election results is likely to continue in the first half of 2020.”

Having secured a re-election, the world report however observes that President Masisi and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), will remain in power throughout the forecast period with limited risks to political stability. It also points out that enduring international concerns over poor controls covering anti-money-laundering will hurt the government’s efforts to improve Botswana’s business environment.

The economy, it says will continue to remain heavily mineral-dependent, and as a result economic growth will fluctuate according to external demand and prices for diamonds. The average global score for democracy also slipped to 5.44, from 5.48 in 2018, which is the worst global score since the index was first published in 2006. The EIU termed 2019 as “the year of democratic setbacks and global protest”. 23 out of 44 African countries saw a worsening in their scores, while 11 saw marginal improvements.

Reached for a comment, opposition UDC Spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa could not mince his words to express his party’s position which are in agreement with the Democracy Index that Botswana deteriorated, categorizing her under a flawed democracy twice in a row.

“This is correct. The international community is beginning to see our democratic flaws through this veil of stability. So it’s not only us who are picking this up talking about it. President Masisi should smell the coffee and act immediately to ensure that we do not slide downwards further,” he told WeekendPost in a brief interview on Thursday.  

The same sentiments were echoed by Professor David Sebudubudu, a lecturer at the University of Botswana, in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, who also noted that it does not come as a surprise as Botswana has been declining in most of the Freedom Index since 2008. “Botswana has been declining for some time since 2008, even if you look at various index including Freedom Index,” he stressed.

In the flawed democracy category, the UB Professor explained that countries such as Botswana, are deemed to be having elections freely, respecting civil liberties but “with defects in the way they operate”, for example with regard to media freedom. Professor Sebudubudu justified that as an example Media in Botswana is weak, adding that, it is because of many factors including the unofficial advertising ban on some private newspapers and the Media Practitioners Act among others.

He added that even on issues of governance structures, Botswana now seems complacent. For instance, not only is the media is fragile, but our Parliament is also weak, he emphasized. “There are more Ministers than ordinary ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament. This is wrong in terms of democracy and separation of powers.” According to the UB Don, there have not been movement on the oversight institutions although President Mokgweetsi Masisi pledged to make them different and independent but until then there have not been any movement.

“Even the way Masisi treats corruption, it still remains more of a Public Relations exercise to attract or appeal to donors. We have long said that anti-corruption institutions should be independent. Masisi should stop pledges but execute reforms and make fully independent institutions such as the Directorate of Economic Crime and Corruption (DCEC) and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC),” he stressed.   

Professor Sebudubudu continued: “honours is now on Masisi to demonstrate that he is different from Khama so that we do not continue with the same institutions that were under former President Ian Khama and to some extent Festus Mogae. We want to see substantive changes because as we all know, Khama treated people badly by shrinking their freedoms and civil liberties. So there should be reforms.”

According to the UB educationalist, it’s been 53 years and some issues have been talked about for long enough, it is therefore that government should ensure institutions are reformed to take the country out of a flawed democracy to a full democracy like Mauritius.  Meanwhile, according to the study, Mauritius is the only sub-Saharan country to be deemed a “full democracy,” in Africa earning a score of 8.22 out of 10. Of Africa's other nations, 15 are categorised as “hybrid democracies,” which include Nigeria, the continent's most populous state, and 22 “authoritarian.”

Bottom of the list is Democratic Republic of Congo, with 1.13 points. Africa's average score retreated to 4.26 last year after 4.36 in 2018 to reach its lowest level since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to the EIU's annual Democracy Index.
“More than 15 African Presidents have governed for more than a decade, some of them since their countries achieved independence,” the EIU said.

It further points out that “some of these countries have sought to project an image of democracy without putting in place sufficient institutions or election-monitoring mechanisms to back it up. As such, even if held on time, elections do not automatically lead to representative governments.” The Democracy Index is based on a basket of five factors – civil liberties, political culture, political participation, governance and electoral process – as monitored in 165 states and two territories.

The research firm noted decline in civil liberties, including press freedom and freedom of speech, across the world and blamed it for the global democratic regression. It also blamed the regression on the growing influence of unelected and unaccountable institutions, widening gap between political parties and the national electorate and important decisions being decided by ‘experts’ behind closed doors instead of the political arena.

According to the EIU, worldwide, only 76 countries can be considered to be democracies, and of these, just 22 can be considered “full democracies,” although this is an increase of two over 2018. Fifty-four countries, accounting for more than a third of the world's population, are authoritarian, it said.  

Around the globe, the average score for democracy – rated on a scale of zero to 10 – fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 in 2019, driven by declines in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, the EIU said. Norway topped the index with an overall score of 9.87, while North Korea was at the bottom with a score of 1.08.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.


The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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