Botswana continues to impress a global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, the Transparency International (TI).
TI is based in Berlin, Germany, and was founded in 1993 purely to assist combat corruption and crime prevention around the world. According to a newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) this week by the organisation, Botswana has maintained its top spot as the least corrupt in Africa. Botswana is ranked number 1 in Sub Saharan Africa which places her on number 34 in the whole world.
Out of 100, Botswana scored 61 in 2017. The score is an increase from 60 in 2016. In 2015 and 2014 Botswana scored 63 while in 2013 they attained 64 from 65 scored in 2012. Botswana has been regarded as the most corrupt by the organisation although corruption still remains an issue in some quarters in the country. The Corruption Perceptions Index states that despite being the worst performing region as a whole, Africa has several countries that consistently push back against corruption, and with notable progress like Botswana.
In fact, it states that such African countries score better than some countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The index report continues: “specifically, Botswana, Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Rwanda and Namibia all score better on the index compared to some OECD countries like Italy, Greece and Hungary. In addition, Botswana and Seychelles, which score 61 and 60 respectively, do better than Spain at 57.”
The CPI also highlights that the key ingredient that the top performing African countries have in common is “political leadership that is consistently committed to anti-corruption.” While the majority of countries already have anti-corruption laws and institutions in place, the CPI insists that these leading countries go an extra step to ensure implementation.
The index report points out that “from President Paul Kagame’s strict enforcement of compliance with the leadership code in Rwanda, to President Jorge Fonseca’s open promotion of institutional transparency in Cabo Verde or President Ian Khama’s innovative approach of ‘mainstreaming anti-corruption’ across ministries in Botswana, these countries learned what works best in their communities and pursued these tactics with commitment. These countries score 55, 55 and 61 respectively on the CPI.”
Equally positive, the report added apart from Botswana and few others that in Mauritius also, which scored 50 on the index, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth courageously embarked on a programme to improve its country score by 16 points within the next ten years. This is notwithstanding that this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights categorically that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption.
The index also this year found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new, it continues. In the whole world, New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).
Since 2012, several countries significantly improved their index score, including Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and the United Kingdom, while several countries declined, including Syria, Yemen and Australia. Further analysis of the results indicates that countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption. Every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. The analysis, which incorporates data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, shows that in the last six years, more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the index.
The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. Despite improved anti-corruption efforts in some countries, the situation continues to worsen in a few others. The lowest-scoring countries on the index are often those where there is conflict or war. Reducing corruption in these contexts is particularly challenging.
The fragile nature of governments in these situations presents a real challenge to making meaningful changes. In addition, some countries that perform poorly on the index are led by African leaders that run for office on an anti-corruption ticket, but never live up to their pledges to deliver corruption-free services to their citizens.
This scenario is all too common across the continent and makes it difficult to combat corruption effectively. For example, since 2012, Liberia declined 10 points on the CPI. In her final state-of-the-nation address, former President Sirleaf Johnson admitted that her administration did not deliver on its anti-corruption pledge. Her tenure was marred by accusations of nepotism, illegal contracts and impunity for her cabinet ministers.
In the quest to win the fight against corruption, the AU will need to call for visible commitment to anti-corruption from all of its leaders. In addition, the AU should consider investment in countries that historically struggle with anti-corruption efforts and show little to no progress. This includes countries like Malawi and Guinea Bissau that continue to decline significantly, as well as countries like Somalia and South Sudan, which fall at the very bottom of the index and face significant governance challenges.
Meanwhile with regards to Botswana, corruption is still perceived by others as rampant although seen as lower than other countries in Africa and the world. The country is currently plunged in perhaps the worst financial corruption scandal in its history involving more than 320 million pula (which is perceived to have grown to 600 million) scrupulously accrued from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
The landmark case that rocked the country towards the end of last year, implicate one Bakang Seretse, and two other co-accused, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang who are alleged to have between September, 05, 2017 and November, 27, 2017 in Gaborone, illegally received over P320 million from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) hence charged with money laundering. The case continues.
Another marathon corruption case involved former Debswana Managing Director Louis Nchindo who was said to be involved in corruption scandal relating to acquiring large chunks of land throughout Botswana, which included in Gaborone – for purposes of tourism development.
Some Ministers were also at some point investigated for corruption including Vincent Seretse the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, former minister of Juctice, Defence and Security Ramadeluka Seretse, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo and Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Maele – more often than not, high ranking members of society implicated in corruption cases get cleared by the courts.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.