Botswana needs to seriously rethink the issue of providing political party funding. The recent complaints by the opposition that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is hogging the limelight among other things point out to the need for the republic to consider introducing this funding.
Elections campaigns have always provided fodder for interesting curious happenings by politicians and propagandists the world over. Botswana is no exception as signified by among others, the recent Francistown fiasco, where there was a near fracas between members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and the opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change. President Ian Khama, the BDP leader who also happens to be the state President was in town. The presidential visit has become a matter hot political debate as people are wondering on what capacity, Khama came to Francistown. You see with President Ian Khama, he is man of many hats. His job, unlike others, where you are at work from eight o’clock to five, he is president all day, all week. Thus even when he is on private engagements, he goes with the trappings of his office-the bodyguards, chauffeured cars and the like. The president and his cabinet ministers have always been accused of abusing state resources to advance their political party elections campaign, where government vehicles and state media especially the powerful Botswana television which has a wider reach countrywide, are used for visits of the leaders to villages and other remote areas. The highly televised Molepolole kgotla meetings that saw President Ian Khama and some of his ministers addressing meetings with members of public on issues of service by government and to take issues raised by the residents for redress, have not been spared by the opposition, who feel that Khama and his party are bent on using state resources to have a better advantage over the opposition which can surely not take government vehicles fuelled on the taxpayer’s money and address kgotla meetings that will then be televised in a special programme on Btv. That’s part of incumbency.
It is quite difficult to separate Khama the president from the BDP leader as he is one man, who is always a president, all the time. Though there is a confusion, which even shows in the Botswana television’s announcement that Khama was on an official visit to Francistown, while the ruling party has said he was on a party mission, one thing that is clear is that as a busy man, the president can take the opportunity to veer off his busy schedule and go and do political party events. By so doing, he will have to use the very same government resources that he travels on. The same applies to ministers, some of whom have been seen using their official vehicles to travel to their constituencies to campaign. Some have even been accused of using kgotla meetings to ingratiate themselves to the electorate. Recently one minister was shown on the national television speaking at an official event that had nothing to with political campaigns. Interestingly at the back, right behind the stage there was a car with an election poster campaign of this BDP politician. You could see that it was stage managed so that is in the line of the camera, hence it ended up appearing on Btv. This is unfair or can be seen to be unfair as members of the opposition do not have that kindd of access. The only solution is to ensure that the government agrees to political party funding. That way the political playing field will be level and there would be few complaints of cheating by the incumbents. At the moment, the feeling is that the propaganda war will also be won by the ruling party because it has immediate access to state media, where their ministers are always seen on television in kgotla meetings.