Amid eight consecutive losses in bye-elections since the 2014 general elections by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP); water and electricity challenges, an Afrobarometer study on Viability of Opposition Parties in Africa: Popular views – has established Botswana as one of the countries with only a semi-viable opposition.
The study indicates that while these cases exceed the Afrobarometer mean (with 42% to 50%), they lack a majority of citizens who perceive opposition viability. The ruling BDP has experienced a decline in popular vote, dropping to just below 50 percent in 2014. For the first time in history the opposition has 20 Members of Parliament. However according to the study, Batswana still have trust issues with opposition institutions.
“In other words, opposition parties enjoy a measure of popular credibility but have yet to cross critical thresholds that would enable electoral victory or alternation of government. The five countries in this category are: Tanzania, Togo, Mali, Botswana, and Zambia. Of these, only Mali and Zambia have undergone alternations in the past decade,” reads the study finding.
Botswana opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are working towards a united onslaught on the ruling BDP, a move that is expected to raise the level of their viability. The study results were released on 26th August 2015.
While the study does not demonstrate the sampling of those interviewed in Botswana, observers assume the sampling could have left out the majority of those who voted in 2014. Botswana has a population of just over 2 million and less than 700 000 voted in the last election.
According to the latest Afrobarometer results (2014-2015), four countries that currently fall into the category of countries with a viable opposition are: Malawi, Madagascar, Namibia, and Ghana. Three of these four have experienced alternations (Ghana, Madagascar, and Malawi).
The fourth, Namibia, resembles Tanzania in that both ruling and opposition parties seem to enjoy relatively high standing. In these places, a majority of citizens (51% or more) think that the opposition has a vision and plan for the country and, by implication, is therefore qualified to form a government.
Countries with non-viable oppositions: In all remaining countries, citizens see the opposition as falling short (often well short) of being an electoral threat to incumbents or a realistic government-in-waiting. This group of 11 countries constitutes more than half of the country sample and may therefore be most representative of the continent as a whole.
The Afrobarometer survey on 20 African countries, that included Botswana, established that African citizens consistently grant the lowest levels of trust to opposition parties. According to the study Afrobarometer rankings of trusted institutions – led by religious leaders, the army, and government broadcasters – consistently place opposition parties dead last.
Indeed, trust in the ruling party exceeds trust in the opposition in 16 out of 20
Afrobarometer countries in 2015, though the gap is very small in Benin, and in Madagascar no party attracts much trust.
By contrast, citizens trust opposition parties more than ruling parties in just four countries: barely so in Nigeria (where again, trust levels are very low for both parties) and Cape Verde (the trust gap is within the surveys’ margin of sampling error for both countries), but by meaningful gaps in Ghana and Malawi (where citizens favour the opposition by 9 and 13 percentage points, respectively).
The Afrobarometer study indicates that more than half (53%) of Africans interviewed in 2005 said that they trusted ruling parties “somewhat” or “a lot,” but just over one-third (36%) said the same about opposition parties. While this trust gap has closed significantly over time, dropping from 17 percentage points to 9, the change is due more to declining popular trust in ruling parties (down an average 5 percentage points between 2005 and 2015, to 48%) than rising popular trust in opposition parties (up an average of 3 percentage points, to 39%).
“Average continental patterns again conceal important country differences. Among the countries with the largest gaps in favour of incumbent rulers, there are several –including Namibia (25 -percentage-point gap), Botswana (23-point gap), and Tanzania (17-point gap) – that possess one – party dominant systems. We also find Burundi (29-point-gap) and Zimbabwe (20 points), both of which are ruled by strongmen who have manipulated rules to undermine opposition parties and maintain their hold on power. Others, such as Mali (16 points), Lesotho (16 points), and Kenya (15 points), are generally more competitive, but the ruling party nonetheless has a strong trust advantage,” observes the study findings.
Role of the opposition
“Majorities of citizens in most countries agree that opposition parties should exist, contest elections, and offer voters electoral choices. But what do people think opposition parties should do for the rest of the time, that is, in the long intervals between elections? The classic view of the opposition’s role in a democracy is that it should be a watchdog – and inevitably a critic – of government, checking the activities of public officials and holding them politically accountable.”
But Afrobarometer results reveal that Africans generally do not subscribe to this vision. On average across 20 countries, only one-fourth (27%) of survey respondents consider that “opposition parties should monitor and criticize government in order to hold it accountable”.
Rather, strong majorities in almost every country –ranging from 61% in Ghana to 82% in Botswana and Senegal –instead want opposition parties to “cooperate with the government and help it develop the country.”
The study demonstrates that 16 percent of Batswana want the opposition to criticise and monitor government while an overwhelming 82 percent want opposition to cooperate with government and develop the country.
“Moreover, across countries, the range of support for multiparty politics is wide, from a high of 82% in Côted’Ivoire (which approaches a critical contest in October 2015) to a low of 42% in Senegal. In one of the few questions that could be asked about multiparty competition in Swaziland, support is even lower, at just 31%. In this context, where it is unclear whether political parties are legal, 64% of Swazis believe that parties are too divisive for the country,” reads the study.
The average level of popular support for a multiparty system has held steady over time. In the 15 countries for which Afrobarometer currently has trend data, multiparty competition is favoured by about the same proportion in 2015 (65%) as in 2005 (64%).
Explaining opposition viability
According to the study, people’s hopes that the opposition will effectively fight corruption have a greater effect on perceptions of opposition viability than does its expected role in controlling prices. Indeed, among the four policy issues considered, the opposition’s expected performance at combatting corruption (relative to that of the incumbent party) has the biggest impact on whether people come to see the political opposition as viable. The study further points out that on a related point, citizens who perceive an absence of policy difference between ruling and opposition parties are significantly less likely to regard the opposition as politically viable.
“This suggests that, even if many Africans want opposition parties to work in concert with the incumbent government (rather than against it), they would still like to see a wider range of available policy options. That being said, we confirm an emerging impression that electoral alternation is unrelated to popular perceptions of opposition viability. This unexpected result implies that former ruling parties that are now in opposition are no longer imagined by the general public as a viable alternative government. It may also be the case that a country’s experience of electoral alternation is no guarantee that future turnovers of government will take place. Further research is required on this important subject.”
The researchers write that although African citizens claim to base their judgments about political parties primarily on policy considerations, they are, in fact, driven by the stronger sentiment of institutional trust. In other words, citizens judge the viability of political opposition in Africa in the first instance on whether they think they can trust these institutions.
“We therefore think that public judgments of policy differences between parties are likely to be a product of underlying relationships of trust, rather than vice versa. And since trust is likely to be shaped in good part by what citizens feel about the patrons who lead Africa’s political parties, we remain on the side of those who argue that patronage continues to trump policy in the formation of public attitudes toward parties in Africa,” reads the study.
According to the study most analysts agree that political parties in Africa are built around the distribution of patronage resources rather than the promotion of policy platforms.
“A somewhat different picture emerges when the opinions of citizens are sought on this subject. Asked about the “most important difference between ruling and opposition parties,” a plurality of citizens (23%) claim to distinguish them based on their “economic and development policies”; fully 40% of Malawians claim to perceive policy differences, compared to just 11% in Mali.”
“The extent to which this unexpected response reflects social desirability or policy sophistication is unclear. In fact, the second-most-common response is that there is “no difference” between the parties (18%), which ranked as the top response in six of the 20 countries. Citizens otherwise mention personal characteristics of party leaders –such as their perceived “honesty” (17%), “experience” (15%), or “personality” (7%) –that seem to describe the attributes of political patrons (and that together amount to 39% of all responses). Finally, even if Africans ultimately vote in blocs, they claim that considerations of social identity –whether ethnic, regional, or religious (together 9%) –play little role in the way they distinguish among political parties.”
The Spokesperson for the country’s main opposition party, UDC, Moeti Mohwasa is not pleased with the results of the study as he is of the view that they are a mismatch of what is happening on the ground.
“I don’t know what to say any more about Afrobarometer. It has been proven in the past that their measures are far from correct. If the opposition got 53% of popular vote in the last general elections (2014) you cannot say they are less vibrant than the ruling party. Why would the people vote for the opposition if only 36% of them trust it! It does not make any sense,” Mohwasa pointed out.
In fact he says he is disappointed by the results which he says have a huge margin of error.
“If the ruling party commanded such large amount of trust, then we should have seen people voting for it in overwhelmingly large numbers and it was not the case when the country went for elections last year. In fact I believe the opposition is going to upset the BDP’s gains even some more in the coming elections because the UDC is hoping to have talks with the BCP very soon,” Mohwasa further stated.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.