Connect with us
Advertisement

The 2014 general election: revolution v counter-revolution


The emerging resistance movement for democratic restoration, economic revival, clean governance started with civil society resisting both the formation of the DIS and the new media regulatory structures in 2008. It gained momentum with the Barata Phati faction sweeping the BDP’s central committee election at the Kanye congress in 2009 (the same faction that later established the Botswana Movement for Democracy-BMD actually defeated President Khama’s all women team!), and with Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi taking President Khama to court that ended with the former’s recall.

The resistance movement gained ground with the expulsions and resignations of Motswaledi’s supporters that led to the party split in 2010, with the public servants strike that ended with calls for regime change in 2011, with the all-inclusive negotiations among opposition parties that ended with the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The release of Margret Nasha’s book Madam Speaker Sir that ended with the Khama regime preventing her from observing the South African elections in early 2014, was followed by the widespread suspicions that Motswaledi’s fatal car accident was staged by some public security forces working with Israeli consultants.

The revelations concerning the possible existence of a hit list of opposition candidates facing assassination during the political campaign added its weight to the resistance movement, followed with a public media blackout on Motswaledi’s hugely attended funeral in Serowe, by former Presidents Masire and Mogae openly criticizing the Khama regime of intolerance and of diverging away from the rule of law that Botswana was known for, all culminated  into a showdown in the October 2014 general election.

The self-declared forces (represented by the UDC) of the restoration of democratic rule and good governance, stood against the BDP under Ian Khama that was portrayed as intolerant and as champion of authoritarian rule, and against the opposition BCP that was portrayed as betraying the struggle in favor of the BDP.  


In some strong sense, the 2014 election was not a normal election. Coming from the resistance movement for democratic restoration, for economic revival, and for clean governance, the forces of resistance (civil society, public sector unions, private media, social media, and opposition political parties) unleashed revolutionary energy, aimed at sweeping away BDP rule that had perceivably become authoritarian, militaristic, corrupt, arrogant and unable to take the economy forward.

True to Skocpol (1979)’s ‘states and social revolutions’ that tied revolutionary success to international support and to defections in the military,  the revolutionary coalition for democratic restoration, for good governance and economic revival, was able to attract international sympathy and support.

With international assistance from the southern Africa region (Khama’s foreign policy in the region characterized by his stand off against Mugabe’s heavy-handed electioneering in Zimbabwe in 2008 was unsettling to say the least and was opposed by most ruling parties in the region) and from overseas (his threat to arrest  President Al Bashir of Sudan in case he visited Botswana, his seemingly deliberate absence from AU summits of head s of states, his uncharacteristic support for the International Criminal Court-ICC, and his government’s public sparring with the American Government over comments concerning the arrest of a newspaper editor), revolutionary energy that expressed itself through the UDC and equally through the public sector trade unions,  private media and social media (particularly Facebook), mounted a spirited campaign that took President Khama by surprise and Botswana by storm.

Hugely organized group launches were organized for UDC candidates with glamorous tents from South Africa and elsewhere, with glamorous presidential buses, and with privately owned helicopters chartered to transport the UDC leader in order to help him look presidential, were deployed.

A private radio station, GABZ FM (with support from trade unions and from the American and British embassies) organized constituency debates and presidential debates revolutionized Botswana’s electoral democracy, were aired nationally and were attended by UDC and BCP candidates and were boycotted by the BDP. In contrast, the privately owned newspapers made a sustained attack on the alleged corruption practices of the DIS boss, disabling him from leading his spy agency into helping President Khama’s campaign.


Realizing late that revolutionary energy had been unleashed to sweep away his rule and facing regime change in the face, President Khama abandoned his earlier position of normal politics of keeping a low profile, re-launched all BDP parliamentary and council candidates across the country and made second and third visits to many constituencies and wards, transported his supporters in army helicopters and flew all over the country, employed public facilities to clear bushes to create open spaces for his political rallies, danced and rode bicycle in opposition strongholds, made no attempt to restrain some of his activists who had resorted to violent means (including house break-ins and mugging) to intimidate opposition candidates.

In short, President Khama mounted a counter-revolutionary campaign spiced with threats of war should his party lose, talks of him going to prison should the opposition win, the hiring of Israeli consultants for unspecified clandestine works, the use of army helicopters to visit several constituencies a number of times, targeted verbal attacks on certain UDC candidates, the use of threatening telephone calls by unknown callers, the use of dances and bicycle rides.


Unbeknown to Khama, an organized faction within the ruling party engineered (through rigging and other means) the loss in the party primary elections and in the general elections, of important people (particularly those with military background to prevent them from being considered for position of vice president), and the emending of parliamentary rules to require booth for the secret voting in Parliament for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Vice President.

Thus, President Khama was facing revolutionary pressures from several fronts: from a broad-based opposition coalition enjoying regional and international support (including from ruling parties in the region), from the private media, from social media, and a revolt from within his own party from an organized faction that wanted to influence who becomes vice president. But at the end of it all, the counter-revolution was partly successful and President Khama was re-elected to start his second term as president.

While President Khama’s ruling party survived and won the elections (it actually lost the popular vote and a number of seats previously held by ministers), the opposition BCP was swept away by the democratic revolutionary current and by the counter-revolution.  


The BCP never saw the revolutionary current. Neither did it see the counter-revolution that actually reversed all previous BCP gains. As a result, it never prepared for either. Being outside both, the BCP saw a normal election in which it (BCP) was destined to win power alone and to embarrass the UDC coalition!

When the whole nation was either in the democratic resistance movement of the UDC or in the counter-revolution of the BDP, the BCP’s darkened vision saw normal electioneering in which the results of the 2009 election could be relied upon to make ‘safe’ predictions of its win, in which its president could ‘safely’ walk out of Motswaledi’s heavily politicized funeral in Serowe, in which it could create artificial distance between itself and the UDC in constituency and presidential debates, in which it could deploy its president to traverse the country campaigning for his candidates in the ‘safe knowledge’ that his constituency was safe, in which it could deploy one presidential bus to drive around the whole country.

In short, the BCP organized for a normal election, not for a revolutionary current nor for a counter-revolution, both of which threatened its existence. The BCP was swept away partly by the revolution that it refused to join, and partly by the counter-revolution that rode on its back for survival. The BCP became a victim of circumstances which its visionaries failed to see and which its policy makers failed to prepare for.

Humbled by the humiliating loss of constituencies and wards, the BCP has woken up, not to join the revolutionary current, not to fight the counter-revolution, but to fight lies! Seeing neither the revolution nor the counter-revolution, the BCP has unleashed its activists to attack the UDC, the private media, the social media, and the public sector trade unions! With the BDP-controlled executive shifting the counter-revolution against Parliament, BCP is provided with a rare opportunity to join the revolution, or miss another chance presented by history and risk being swept away completely. In contrast, will the UDC survive if it promises to work cooperatively with the Executive championing counter-revolution? It is in order for the UDC to be cautious in cooperating with the counter-revolutionary forces.

Zibani Maundeni is professor of political science at the University of Botswana
 

Continue Reading

News

BODANSA strikes gold with a handsome P45K windfall from Turnstar Holdings

27th February 2024

The Botswana DanceSport Association (BODANSA) has been graced with a financial boon of P45,000 courtesy of Turnstar Holdings. This generous endowment is earmarked for the illustrious Botswana International Dance Sport Grand Prix Championships, which are scheduled to animate Gaborone from Friday to Saturday.

At a media engagement held early today, BODANSA’s Marketing Maestro, Tiro Ntwayagae, shared that Turnstar Holdings Limited has bestowed a gift of P45,000 towards the grand spectacle.

“We are thrilled to announce that this backing will enable us to orchestrate a cultural soirée at the Game City Marque locale, a night brimming with cultural fervor set for March 1, 2024, from 6pm to the stroke of midnight.

This enchanting space will also serve as the battleground for the preliminaries of traditional dance ensembles—spanning the rhythmically rich Setapa to the euphoric beats of Sebirwa, the spirited Seperu, the heavenly Hosana, and more—in a competition folded into the Traditional Dance Groups Category. The ensemble that dances into the judges’ hearts will clinch a grand prize of P10,000,” elaborated Ntwayagae.

He further illuminated that the cultural eve would not only celebrate traditional melodies but also the fresh beats of contemporary dance variants including Hip Hop, Sbujwa, Amapiano, among others, in a dazzling display of modern dance mastery.

Moreover, these championships carry the prestigious recognition by the World DanceSport Federation as a qualifying round for the Breakdance category for the Paris 2024 Olympics. “This is a monumental opportunity for athletes to leap towards their Olympic dreams during one of the penultimate qualifiers,” underscored Ntwayagae.

Looking ahead to March 2, 2024, the festivities will propel into the University of Botswana Indoor Sports Arena for the championship’s climactic showdowns encompassing Breakdance, Latin, and Ballroom Dancing.

 

Continue Reading

News

Government of Botswana yet to sign, ratify the UN-CRPD

26th February 2024

In Botswana, a beacon of democracy in Africa, the right to participate in the political discourse is a cornerstone of its societal structure. It’s an avenue through which citizens shape the rules and systems that govern their everyday lives. Despite this, recent studies indicate that Individuals with Disabilities (IWDs) are notably absent from political dialogues and face substantial hurdles in exercising their democratic freedoms.

Research within the nation has uncovered that IWDs encounter difficulties in engaging fully with the political process, with a pronounced gap in activities beyond mere voting. The call for environments that are both accessible and welcoming to IWDs is loud, with one participant, who has a physical disability, spotlighting the absence of ramps at voting venues and the dire need for enhanced support to facilitate equitable involvement in the electoral process.

The challenges highlighted by the study participants pinpoint the structural and social obstacles that deter IWDs from participating wholly in democracy. The inaccessibility of voting facilities and the lack of special accommodations for people with disabilities are critical barriers. Those with more significant or intellectual disabilities face even steeper challenges, often feeling marginalized and detached from political engagement.

To surmount these obstacles, there is an urgent appeal for Botswana to stride towards more inclusive and accessible political stages for IWDs. This necessitates a committed effort from both the government and relevant entities to enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of IWDs to partake in the political framework. Enhancing awareness and understanding of the political landscape among IWDs, alongside integrating inclusive practices within political entities and governmental bodies, is crucial.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing an inclusive political environment, Botswana can live up to its democratic ideals, ensuring every citizen, regardless of ability, can have a substantive stake in the country’s political future.

 

 

Continue Reading

News

People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.

 

 

Continue Reading