Botswana Blues

Botswana's been governed by the same party since independence in 1966. There's no crisis of democracy in Botswana.

President Ian Khama during the 35th SADC Summit held in Gaborone, Botswana. Image Credit: GCIS via Flickr

The Botswana Democratic Party was returned to power in this weekend’s elections. The BDP has ruled the country uninterrupted since independence in 1966 through an electoral system–first past the post–that favors them just fine. The incumbent president, General Seretse Ian Khama, his family and supporters treat the Presidency like some hereditary office. There’s also widespread poverty, professionals leave (mostly for the UK, US, Canada and neighboring South Africa) and it has the highest infection rates of AIDS per capita. Of course there’s no crisis here and none of the “democracy activists” in West makes a stink. Botswana, according to them, is a “success story.”

As for Khama’s election campaign, he promised “… a campaign to discourage heavy drinking with a tax on alcohol.”

If you want to make sense of politics in Botswana beyond the “success story” tropes, we can recommend the work of Kenneth Good, the Australian-born political scientist whose analyses of politics in Botswana was so cutting, the government deported him in 2005.  (It seems a book chapter Good co-wrote with IR scholar, Ian Taylor, Kenneth Good and Ian Taylor, “Unpacking the ‘model’: presidential succession in Botswana” in a book edited by Roger Southall and Henning Melber, Legacies of Power: Leadership change and former presidents in African politics, was the final straw.) Then there’s the work of the Batswana academics Patrick Molutsi (a sociologist based at the University of Botswana), Balefi Tsie, Monageng Mogalakwe (who has written about trade unions in Botswana) and and political scientist Gladys Mokhawa. Finally, we’d recommend Ellen Hillbom, a Swedish economist working on Botswana since 1996, along with Ian Taylor (mentioned already) and German political scientist Christian von Soest.

Further Reading