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When Rain Clouds Gather and Beauty Morphs into Ugliness

Teedzani Thapelo

Institute of International Education Fellowship Award Winner, and runner up national poet to the 2016 Share Botswana Tourism Fiction Award, Teedzani Thapelo*, ponders the nationwide devastation wrought by ex-Dineo, her unchecked tempestuous depredation, and expresses his shock at national unpreparedness for this catastrophe, arguing that this horror, and its merciless cutting blade, tearing up roads, sending rooftops flying, stealing chicken and pigs, laughing at feeble BDP policy institutions, reflects lack of planning, the absence of fences and defence mechanisms against disasters, poor knowledge about the hazards of nature, and BDP flagrant disregard for human effort and national dignity.

The first part of the title comes from a novel by Bessie Head, a South African exile writer who lived and died in Serowe. I am very glad to note her works still hold place of pride at UB, no, not UB at Gaborone, but the University of Buffalo, in the US. There is nothing more fascinating to students of African literature these days than the literature of exile and refuge studies, and Head, sits among the pantheon of literary giants whose works still evoke tremendous intellectual fascination in both the West and Africa.


She had such a delicately sensitive feel about the land and people of her adopted political home, Botswana, that many still regard her as our only literary voice. South Africans, of course, don’t want to hear about this, and already they have usurped her genius and firmly implanted it in their canon and national consciousness, naming libraries and streets after her to promote public admiration and readership of her works. What do the people of Serowe have to say about that, I wonder? BDP government does not care.


As far as they are concerned she never lived here, she means nothing to our cultural heritage. Oh, boy, talk about ignorance. Can anyone imagine British authorities allowing Poland to do the same thing with that celebrated genius, Joseph Conrad? Enough about literary gems we will most probably never possess. Let’s get down to more mundane things; rain, rain, rain; and the horror, the horror!

Well, my grandma, Balebi Thapelo, also had a very strong and rather feverishly sensitive feel about our land. She was, I should think, a very spiritual woman. Trouble with her religion of things, was that it intermingled with too much booze. I witnessed the remaining part of her spiritual journey towards the declining years of her life, and just when I had managed to pluck enough courage to put her through a thorough interview about the whole mystical business she died. That saddened me a great deal.


To date she is the only person whose funeral I attended. One thing though stays in my memory, her stupefying knowledge of gathering clouds and impending rains. In this field she was miles ahead of Radithupa Radithupa. She rarely erred. Come every rain season, and we were in for great drama. I wonder if my family siblings still remember those mind-boggling escapades. The most fascinating thing is that hers was always a solo fetishism. She demanded no audience. We the kiddies could gather around her and enthusiastically clap our hands to her gyrations but you were not allowed to ask any questions; as I said she was a true weather woman.

Try to interfere with her furious dance and strenuous invocations of the rain and the river gods, and you could easily lose a leg. Everything was very solemn, just the way they do things at St Peters Square in the Vatican City, and we lived at Jacklas Number 1 village, right here in good old Botswana. Like most kids we feared the roar of thunder, and granny could imitate it; perfectly, and fearfully, substituting along the way the even more ferociously roars of lions, and yelling of hyenas; a perfect cacophony, but symphony to her ears.


In this way she taught us that even wild animals feared thunder. That man had good reason to fear and welcome thunder at the same time, it was the way of the world, the only way to live with turbulent, and unpredictable nature. Whenever the rain season started approaching she would insist all the huts be fortified with mud and cow dung. Stone bricks were also used. The whole thorn yard fence had to be overhauled; rotting corner poles replaced. Tall trees in the neighbourhood pruned.


It was heavy work, and we all did it; grandma breathing on our backs like an army general. Of course we grumbled a lot, and my uncles’ wives worried she was using up seed for ploughing to brew her ‘religious beer,’ but she stuck to her guns like a true commander in chief. I learnt early at home there is no government without critics, and I enjoyed it all. It was good education. It prepared me for the world of the future, the world of today; the world of tomorrow.

Grandma was the family matriarch, and she did her job well. By the time I was eight I had learnt to respect thunder, and I could take out our cows to grass, clad in a very heavy but very useful sack raincoat, and when it started raining, and the cows started gambolling about mooing wild-to dissipate their own fear of thunder, I would just sit on a rock and watch them dance till they tired, and started falling into small tribal groups for mutual protection and assurance. All these things I learnt from my grandma. They made my life easy, and happy.


I always felt safe because I trusted her government and her religion of things. I only regret I never had the chance to talk to her about these things. I always noted the roll of thunder would go on accompanying her performance till she fell to the ground exhausted, or dead drunk, or possessed by some awfully powerful spirit, or all these things combined, and then, lo and behold, the heavens would open, and at times it could rain non-stop for days and nights. We always had a hard time of it lifting her and taking her to her shrine. Like all governments she was big. Oh, those were thrilling times.

I have been thinking about these dramatic personal experiences the past few days as our country was going through the most magnificent, and equally frightening, heavenly showers in living memory. I also took the trouble, whenever I could, to venture out and witness this unfolding drama first hand. Drama? Well, those of us who grew up on that stupendous intellectual extravaganza, Greek literature, will no doubt see what I mean; read Homer’s Odyssey.


Batswana who know nothing about Homer must still have seen something of his stunning apprehension of the world of man and nature in the continuing struggle for survival on planet earth these past few days as ex-Dineo hit home with garrulous impetuosity tearing up roads, sending rooftops flying, knocking down doors, stealing chicken and pigs, laughing at Government Enclave and generally making our lives miserable. Oh, I know some people are hurting, terribly, and I sympathise.  

But we did say we wanted rain. Radithupa warned us to expect a deluge of it nationwide; a perfect storm in the tradition of Hollywood films, and we did nothing to prepare ourselves. Grandma would have done a good job of yelling, cajoling and putting up fences and defence mechanisms in place to avert disaster. It would appear to me the fact it caught us napping is no reason we should be cursing heaven. We have got only ourselves to blame. In a world so full of dangers and risks people must always be prepared for anything.


In fact by definition human life is temporal, mortal, existential, and mostly insignificant in the face of assault by the elements, especially water and fire. If we don’t evolve safety measures to protect ourselves then we do not have anyone to blame but ourselves. Government should take the lead in building such defence mechanisms and educating people about the hazards of nature, but BDP is not the sort of government up to such tasks.


Keep looking up to them for protection and guidance and you will find yourselves sheltering under one huge blanket, donated by Indians, the next time another cyclone, another Dineo comes visiting. What good will that do? Ask the people of Mozambique what a really furious hurricane can do. A blanket, no matter how well knitted, will just not do. I doubt even Homer would have cast BDP in his works; they are just too dismal characters. I miss my grandma’s government.

Homer would not have had much trouble casting grandma in his work, even the weathermen of our time. The rain season is a unique experience. Most Batswana think about it only in terms of ploughing and harvesting. That is not good enough, and the present season clearly demonstrates why we should evolve a new convention with nature when it comes to this time of the year. If we don’t, there is no telling what is going to happen to both our lives and our properties in the future, to both our land and country in the future, and to both our universe and planet in the future.


These are fearful things to put to people who have up to now taken such things for granted. In other parts of the world already people do things differently. Let us not wait for a national catastrophe to hit home before we put the necessary defensive mechanisms in place. I doubt though Government Enclave will heed this call. Unlike Grandma’s authority, these people are really not a government. They are a social club; a gormandizing social club. So long as their stomachs are full they never care about tomorrow, they never plan ahead, and this explains the horrors of ex-Dineo in many parts of our country.

A few incidents awakened my personal consciousness to the gravity of floods in the face of relentless rainfall and devastating rolls of thunder. I did not even know some parts of Botswana are so prone to lightning. Had I interviewed my grandma, no doubt I’d be already a very informed man about these things. Unfortunately I didn’t, and now remains the task to spend long hours poring over literature in public libraries. No matter. I am used to this sort of thing.


As soon as reports of floods and public damage started filtering in through social media, I raised my antennae, broadened my intellectual radar, and hit the road. The precautions I took along the way, excluding the sack raincoat, I learnt from my grandma. In one plain field I encountered an old woman with about three Zimbabwean help hands. She didn’t mind my enquiries about the feel of the land. Also I had good chilled water to which she seemed very partial. So we conversed freely.


The clouds were dark, and heavy, and I knew I had to be careful. It could rainy anytime. She, however, was not concerned with that. Her concentration was on the soil. She took a pinch of it and ate it. I was so startled I must have ejaculated my astonishment. Grandma used to do exactly the same thing. I saw her roll the dirt round her mouth, and, I think, she swallowed some of it. The remaining bit she spat to the ground with knowing satisfaction, and a very grave face. Then she shaded her poor eyes with her right hand, and looked at the gathering clouds for several seconds. After a heavy sigh, she waddled to her dilapidated truck and collapsed into the front seat.

I followed her and put a direct question to her about that startling incident. She tried to dodge it. So I explained about my grandma. She listened to me very carefully, asked a few questions of her own, and I answered as best I could. It soon transpired she came from Matebeleng village in Mochudi. She spoke both Ikalanga and IsiNdebele well. She told me all she thought she knew about people like my grandma, and her quaint religion. I know Matebeleng well but I did not let this out. In a way I was not surprised.


Her field is just on the road to that village, and my guide had informed me I would probably meet only people from the neighbourhood in our trip. But I had hit a jackpot. This old woman seemed to be cut from the same cloth as my grandma. Unfortunately she clumped her mouth shut soon as she realized I had company; the local guide. They started arguing about some old money debt, till we left. Once again I had failed to connect with my ancestral past regarding the rituals of rainfall. When it started raining I was already on my way home, and a very disturbed man.

That evening, and in subsequent news, I really was not surprised by the devastation shown on television. Thanks to my grandma I had read the signs well. What shocked me was the level of unpreparedness throughout the whole country. Just what good is our government? What do these people do on a normal day? Who really are these people? Are they Africans? Did any of them go to any schools? What do they want in office? How come the nation is so vulnerable and the whole country so fragile? Ai madoda, I really do miss my grandma’s government.


This is not the way to live. People can just not get anyway this way. There’s terrible rot in our political system, in our public institutions and moral consciousness as a nation and a republic. If we don’t change the way we do things, and do so fast, there is no telling where we will be as a people in five years’ time. I mean who wants to build a house today and have it ruined tomorrow? Who wants to travel a road today and see it destroyed tomorrow? Who wants to build a bridge today and see it collapsed tomorrow? Who really wants to live in a world of futility? Why do we permit these fatal arrangements? What is wrong with us? Why can’t we create enduring things? Why do we hate beautiful and useful things?

Take Nata for example. It is a long time since I travelled that part of the country. But I loved it enough to write some reasonable good and memorable poems about my adventures there:
One night in a lodge
Is all it takes to savour
A country feel to my land
One amazing ride in the river
Bathing off the spleen of rage
And sleepless nights
Is all it takes to savour
A pleasant bush….

A blinding beauty
Blighted my sight
This day
Amid flamingo bird
And barren wasteland
A transit landscape
Fit only for the intrepid spirit
Possessed of passions
In a rugged land
Of mysterious trunked trees
Robust flowers
Of an age….

The girl flirts about the green field,
And screws up her lips
Into a raw pout of tenderness,
Playing a dialogue of wanton carelessness,
And watching her, I fear tomorrow
There shall be tears upon this score….

I remember well, my bothers
The luxurious sturdiness of childhood,
But why remind me old age,
Of the disastrous sojourns of time past,
At this hour of truth,
When I stand an indistinct spectre,
In the cruel theatre of life,
And one foot in the grave,
When the bones now can only rattle in the body?

I just picked out four parts from my poems; A Country Feel About my Land, Makgadikgadi Pans, Foul Field and Memoriam, from my collection of poems, Black Sunlight, and all these were written during that memorable trip to Nata and beyond. Later on I would write the 600 words poem Okavango Delta which won a literary award.


This is what natural beauty does for people who care about their country, it inspires them, it makes them human, it gives them culture and knowledge. So you can guess how I felt when I saw want happened to the land and people of Nata and surrounding areas; poor planning and ignorance killing hope and human livelihoods. Who should I blame for this negligence but BDP?

I am angry, and disappointed. But that is what BDP wants. They trade in misery of citizens. People in that region are mostly very poor. They need help, desperately. But I can bet my last coin nobody is going to help them get out of this rut. The land there is beautiful and rewarding. But nobody is going to do the best they can to put things to rights after these horrible floods and destruction.

How sad. How truly sad.

Novelist, poet and historian, Teedzani Thapelo*, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London. He is author of Seasons of Thunder and the forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, and Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe.

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Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.


Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.


Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.



Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.



So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

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The case for Botswana to ratify the ACDEG

6th March 2023

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) is the most comprehensive dataset measuring African governance performance through a wide range of 81 indicators under the categories of Security & Rule of law, Participation, Rights & Inclusion, Foundations of Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. It employs scores, expressed out of 100, which quantify a country’s performance for each governance measure and ranks, out of 54, in relation to the 54 African countries.

The 2022 IIAG Overall Governance score is 68.1 and ranks Botswana at number 5 in Africa. In 2019 Botswana was ranked 2nd with an overall score of 73.3. That is a sharp decline. The best-performing countries are Mauritius, Seychelles, Tunisia, and Cabo Verde, in that order. A glance at the categories shows that Botswana is in third place in Africa on the Security and Rule of law; ninth in the Participation, Rights & Inclusion Category – indicating a shrinking participatory environment; eighth for Foundations of Economic Opportunity category; and fifth in the Human Development category.

The 2022 IIAG comes to a sweeping conclusion: Governments are less accountable and transparent in 2021 than at any time over the last ten years; Higher GDP does not necessarily indicate better governance; rule of law has weakened in the last five years; Democratic backsliding in Africa has accelerated since 2018; Major restrictions on freedom of association and assembly since 2012. Botswana is no exception to these conclusions. In fact, a look at the 10-year trend shows a major challenge. While Botswana remains in the top 5 of the best-performing countries in Africa, there are signs of decline, especially in the categories of Human Development and Security & Rule of law.

I start with this picture to show that Botswana is no longer the poster child for democracy, good governance, and commitment to the rule of law that it once was. In fact, to use the term used in the IIAG, Botswana is experiencing a “democratic backsliding.”

The 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) had Botswana at 55/ 100, the lowest ever score recorded by Botswana dethroning Botswana as Africa’s least corrupt country to a distant third place, where it was in 2019 with a CPI of 61/100. (A score closer to zero denotes the worst corrupt and a score closer to 100 indicates the least corrupt country). The concern here is that while other African states are advancing in their transparency and accountability indexes, Botswana is backsliding.

The Transitional National Development Plan lists participatory democracy, the rule of law, transparency, and accountability, as key “deliverables,” if you may call those deliverables. If indeed Botswana is committed to these principles, she must ratify the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance (ACDEG).

The African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance is the African Union’s principal policy document for advancing democratic governance in African Union member states. The ACDEG embodies the continent’s commitment to a democratic agenda and set the standards upon which countries agreed to be held accountable. The Charter was adopted in 2007 and came into force a decade ago, in 2012.

Article 2 of the Charter details its objectives among others as to a) Promote adherence, by each State Party, to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights; b) Promote and protect the independence of the judiciary; c) Promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs; d) Promote gender balance and equality in the governance and development processes.

The Charter emphasizes certain principles through which member states must uphold: Citizen Participation, Accountable Institutions, Respect for Human Rights, Adherence to the principles of the Rule of Law, Respect for the supremacy of the constitution and constitutional order, Entrenchment of democratic Principles, Separation of Powers, Respect for the Judiciary, Independence and impartiality of electoral bodies, best practice in the management of elections. These are among the top issues that Batswana have been calling for, that they be entrenched in the new Constitution.

The ACDEG is a revolutionary document. Article 3 of the ACDEG, sets guidance on the principles that must guide the implementation of the Charter among them: Effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in the governance of public affairs; Promotion of a system of government that is representative; Holding of regular, transparent, free and fair elections; Separation of powers; Promotion of gender equality in public and private institutions and others.

Batswana have been calling for laws that make it mandatory for citizen participation in public affairs, more so, such calls have been amplified in the just-ended “consultative process” into the review of the Constitution of Botswana. Many scholars, academics, and Batswana, in general, have consistently made calls for a constitution that provides for clear separation of powers to prevent concentration of power in one branch, in Botswana’s case, the Executive, and provide for effective checks and balances. Other countries, like Kenya, have laws that promote gender equality in public and private institutions inscribed in their constitutions. The ACDEG could be a useful advocacy tool for the promotion of gender equality.

Perhaps more relevant to Botswana’s situation now is Article 10 of the Charter. Given how the constitutional review process unfolded, the numerous procedural mistakes and omissions, the lack of genuine consultations, the Charter principles could have provided a direction, if Botswana was party to the Charter. “State Parties shall ensure that the process of amendment or revision of their constitution reposes on national consensus, obtained, if need be, through referendum,” reads part of Article 10, giving clear clarity, that the Constitution belong to the people.

With the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance in hand, ratified, and also given the many shortfalls in the current constitution, Batswana can have a tool in hand, not only to hold the government accountable but also a tool for measuring aspirations and shortfalls of our governance institutional framework.

Botswana has not signed, nor has it acceded or ratified the ACDEG. The time to ratify the ACDEG is now. Our Movement, Motheo O Mosha Society, with support from the Democracy Works Foundation and The Charter Project Africa, will run a campaign to promote, popularise and advocate for the ratification of the Charter (#RatifytheCharter Campaign). The initiative is co-founded by the European Union. The Campaign is implemented with the support of our sister organizations: Global Shapers Community – Gaborone Hub, #FamilyMeetingBW, Botswana Center for Public Integrity, Black Roots Organization, Economic Development Forum, Molao-Matters, WoTech Foundation, University of Botswana Political Science Society, Young Minds Africa and Branding Akosua.

Ratifying the Charter would reaffirm Botswana’s commitment to upholding strong democratic values, and respect for constitutionalism, and promote the rule of law and political accountability. Join us in calling the Government of Botswana to #RatifyTheCharter.

*Morena MONGANJA is the Chairperson of Motheo O Mosha society; a grassroots movement advocating for a new Constitution for Botswana. Contact: or WhatsApp 77 469 362.

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