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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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Ministers key to Masisi presidency revealed

7th December 2021
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has identified at least 12 cabinet ministers who form part of his long-term plans owing to their loyalty and tenacity in delivering his vision. Masisi, who will see-off his term in 2028 — provided he wins re-election in 2024 — already knows key people who will help him govern until the end of his term, WeekendPost has learnt.

Despite negative criticism towards ministers from some quarters over a number of decisions and their somewhat cold deliberations and failure to articulate government programs, Masisi is said to be a number one cheer leader of his cabinet. He is said to have more confidence in his cabinet and believes going forward they will reach the aspired levels and silence the critics.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

6th December 2021
Justice Ian Kirby

The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.

WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

6th December 2021

Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed.  This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.

In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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