I will be brutally dishonest to suggest that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has not achieved any successes in its years of existence. I will also be brutally dishonest to suggest that in the midst of these successes, blatant and self-created failures do not exist. The question could be: between the two, which one outweighs the other. I will answer this question in this article. One point I must make upfront though is that instead of building on its successes, the BDP has somewhat decided to be complacent, at times arrogant and inward looking which inevitably led to failures of unimaginable proportions. It is akin to constructing a solid structure which you subsequently demolish with such brutal force that any chance of withstanding such force is impossible. As the BDP celebrates 55 years in Serowe this weekend, it has invited allies from within and outside the country mostly political parties. Notable among political parties are the African National Congress (ANC) and The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). These two parties do not bring any success stories devoid of blatant failures just like the BDP. The ANC is in the middle of implosion occasioned in large measure by selective justice between its other members and its president, Jacob Zuma. The ANC’s Integrity Commission has been disabled purely by technicalities from reigning on Jacob Zuma to put both country and party before himself. In fact, the Commission did ask Zuma to resign last December for his untenable leadership but Gwede Mantashe and company frustrated it. The MPLA (at the time of writing this article) was in the middle of a sham election in which a successor to the incumbent has already been anointed and worse still with the incumbent set to be the leader of the party. Back to the subject matter. The BDP took this country from being one of the poorest in the world to a middle income bracket. Globally, Botswana was rated (rightly or wrongly) to be a country with good and enviable record in human rights; accountability; transparency and the rule of law. This global rating, I will submit, has since or is gradually evaporating like steam from a boiling urn. The discovery of minerals and notably diamonds in years gone by, further escalated and propelled the country to accelerated economic development with the sole aim of bettering the lives of its citizens. Is this the case with present day Botswana? Available evidence points to the contrary. Politically and this far, Botswana has enjoyed peace and tranquillity underpinned by peaceful electioneering and multi-party democracy. Generally speaking and that far, the country had ticked all the right boxes. Against the foregoing, the BDP should with a broad smile celebrate its 55 years of existence. But the broad smile would as it were, painfully stop at ticking the last right box. The ticking is now in reverse with no sign that things will be better anytime soon under the BDP rule. In the last decade or so, gains made before then have literally been reversed. The question of who was at the helm of the BDP is not an issue because the party has been in power since independence. Let us briefly look at some of the issues which the BDP won’t highlight as its failures which the world knows to be the case.
The Rule of Law
The Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (2007-2016) shows that in the categories of The Rule of Law and Human Rights, Botswana has significantly dropped from 4.1 to 2.6 score points over the last 10 years. The same Index also reports that the Freedom of Expression Index has dropped by 1.6 score points. Addressing the audience at the opening of the Botswana Legal Year in 2016, the then Chairman of Botswana Law Society Lawrence Lecha observed: “We note with some measure of dismay that the Government last year deported two former Ugandan Refugees to some unknown destination, most likely back to Uganda. What concerns the Society is that there seems to have been a deliberate attempt to deny the former refugees access to legal representation and therefore ultimately the courts….Batswana should in fact introspect to determine if indeed we are what they say we are”. The most telling blemish on the Rule of Law in Botswana is perhaps the suspension of four High Court judges under very controversial circumstances after they had petitioned the Chief Justice on a range of issues. It is reported that they were re-instated after apologising, cap in hand and on bended knees, to the President. The recent contents of ‘fake’ intelligence report as described by the intelligence agency, is in my view, consistent with a government with overall control of such an institution. It is also consistent with the attitude of a government alive to the real possibility of losing power. In such instances, such government would infiltrate to destabilise its threat whatever it may be. The intelligence agency would therefore pursue a political mission to save the incumbent party under threat thereby usurping the prescripts of the Rule of Law.
Accountability and Transparency
Accountability and Transparency are vital ingredients which nurture and support The Rule of Law. These virtues, I am afraid, only exist in speeches by BDP politicians at rallies, parliament and international fora. The level of fruitless and wasteful expenditure across all government ministries and state-owned enterprises as confirmed by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) year in and out, can best be described as normal and to whom it may concern. This wasteful expenditure could in a meaningful manner help address the socio-economic challenges facing Batswana. In 2010 “Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index gave Botswana a corruption perceptions index of 5.8 where 10.0 is the most clean and 0.0 is the most corrupt. I beg to differ with Transparency International stats for the simple reason that where the Rule of Law, Accountability and Transparency are compromised and circumvented, and institutions which should fight and deal with corruption are under the sole direction of the President, levels of corruption inevitably rise. It will be interesting to know who Transparency International talks to in order to make an informed index finding.
Poverty Eradication and Unemployment
Poverty, abject or otherwise, is a direct outcome of unemployment which itself brings hunger, family breakdown, illness substance abuse and other such ills. K. Osei-Hwedie in a paper titled ‘Poverty Eradication in Botswana: Towards the Realisation of Vision 2016’ says that liberal democracy accepts and tolerates poverty and inequality. The paper further quotes Good to have said that “Botswana has both the wealth and the state capacity to reduce poverty substantially, should the elite have chosen this as an original developmental goal. Consistent with the values of liberal democracy, the ruling elite have not addressed poverty eradication directly and the people have yet to insist that they do so”. The BDP will claim to have put in place Poverty Eradication initiatives with a fairly reasonable budget. But the critical issue is whether these initiatives are fully capacitated and complemented by competent planned workforce who are skilled in the subject matter-poverty eradication. Memory Nguwi of Industrial Psychology Consultants defines planned workforce as the one “having the right number of people with the right skill (not qualifications but right level of competency)”. It is difficult to say whether the poverty eradication initiatives are bearing desired and expected fruits. It is not disputed that there are no beneficiaries of poverty eradication initiatives but the question is whether the benefits are commensurate with the budget and other resources. Unemployment is significantly addressed by the creation of sustainable jobs which in turn address poverty. Botswana is in the middle of indefinite retrenchment season from government-owned enterprises and the private sector. BDP government is viciously in the process of selling cheaply state assets like the over P 10 billion Morupule B Power Station and Air Botswana. These assets are ‘on sale’ under unexplained and controversial circumstances. As it would be imagined, these are enterprises which would employ a sizeable number of workers. The recent shut down of the BCL mine by the sole shareholder (government) where over 5000 workers lost their jobs, is an undisputed fact that BDP government has reached a political cul-de-sac to create or protect existing jobs. What is mind boggling is that BCL jobs were lost against expert advice from captains of the industry and other relevant stakeholders.
Trade Unions and the BDP