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Botswana - Politics

Sir Seretse Khama 1966 1980
Sir Ketumile (Quett) Masire 1980 1998
Festus G. Mogae 1998 2008
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Seretse Khama Ian Khama 2008 2018
Mokgweetsi Masisi2018 2019?

Botswana prides itself on the stablity of its democratic institutions, but most of them are dominated by a small elite. Botswana has been a constitutional, multiparty republican democracy since independence in 1966. Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. General elections are held every 5 years. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country's minority groups participate freely in the political process. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factor in Botswana's stability and economic growth.

The constitution provides for the indirect election of a president and the popular election of a National Assembly. In October 2014 the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won the majority of parliamentary seats in an election deemed generally free and fair. President Ian Khama, who has held the presidency since the resignation of former president Festus Mogae in 2008, retained his position. The BDP has held the presidency and a majority of National Assembly seats since independence. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

While the Republic of Botswana is generally regarded as politically stable, it is not possible to guarantee that political stability will continue. The Republic of Botswana may be subject to political, economic and other uncertainties which are different from those commonly found elsewhere in the world. The threat of political violence is considered low in Botswana. Public demonstrations are rare and seldom turn violent. The most recent protest involved public sector employees and occurred in April to June 2011. There were reports of police deployments and clashes with protestors. With the exception of a few minor instances demonstrations were largely peaceful.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) assesses the quality of institutions as the first pillar of its Global Competitiveness Index. Of the 21 indicators measured under the Institutions pillar, Botswana scores in the top 50 countries globally on 20 of them. Botswana does particularly well in rank- ings for (lack of) wastefulness in government spending, public trust in politicians, diversion of public funds, favouritism in decisions of government officials, and efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations.

In 2011, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which measures the quality of governance in sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 states - on the basis of safety and security, rule of law, transparency and corruption, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development - ranked Botswana as the third best, same as in 2010. Botswana’s overall score was 76, after Mauritius and Cape Verde and ahead of Seychelles and South Africa. To this extent, Botswana is amongst the top performers on the African continent. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is regarded as the world’s most comprehensive ranking of African governance.

The Bertelsmann Transformation Index is an international ranking of 125 developing and transition countries. It sheds light upon the political and economic status of each country as well as upon the political management performance by the relevant actors. It is divided into two indices; the status index and the management index both of which are based on in-depth assessments of 128 countries around the world. The status index ranks the countries according to their state of democracy and market economy and the management index ranks them according to their leadership’s management performance. The management index reviews and evaluates the reform activities of political decision makers, thus providing valuable information on the key factors of success and failure for states on their way to democracy and a market economy.

In terms of the Status index, in 2011, Botswana was at position 19, the same as in 2010, just below Mauritius in the “advanced” category. As for the management index, in 2011 Botswana was at position 8, which was 1 place down from the previous index, below Chile and Estonia in the “successful” category above Mauritius at position 10.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and other NGOs reported the government attempted to limit press freedom and continued to dominate domestic broadcasting. In 2008 parliament passed the Media Practitioners Act, which established a Media Council to register and accredit journalists, promote ethical standards among the media, and receive public complaints. Some NGOs, including MISA, the independent media, and opposition members of parliament, continued to criticize the law, stating it restricts press freedom and was passed without debate after the collapse of consultations between the government and stakeholders.

The government owned and operated the Botswana Press Agency, which dominated the print media through its free, nationally distributed newspaper, Daily News, and two state-operated FM radio stations. State-owned media generally featured reporting favorable to the government and were susceptible to political interference. Opposition political parties claimed state media coverage heavily favored the ruling party. In response, Khama accused the media of bias against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Past attempts by the Government to manipulate the press contributed to Khama's unfavorable media image. In 2001, the Office of the President instructed all government departments and parastatals to discontinue the purchase of advertising space in the privately-owned Botswana Guardian and Midweek Sun newspapers. Vice President Khama reportedly inspired this decision, which was prompted by the papers' criticisms of the Government. The High Court later overruled the prohibition.

The low professional standards that dominate Botswana's media sector would make any public figure wary of speaking out. The independent media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views, which frequently included strong criticism of the government; however, members of the media complained they were sometimes subject to government pressure to portray the government and the country in a positive light. Private media organizations had more difficulty obtaining access to government-held information than government-owned media.

Khama’s critics said that while they applauded his respect of the law, he had shown an authoritarian streak. The retired army general pushed through bills and signed some orders without going through parliamentary processes, has stifled dissent, and oversaw the government’s decision to stop advertising in private media outlets that it saw as critical of Khama’s administration.


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Page last modified: 23-10-2019 18:35:56 ZULU