Thursday, October 8, 2009

Botswana's Elections

Next week Friday, 16th October, will be the national elections in Botswana. It's hard to predict what will happen. Never before has there been so much politically happening in the country. President Ian Khama is nothing if he is not controversial. I sway from one side to the other- first I think he's the best thing that has ever happened to Botswana and then I am thinking we are doomed- I spend the rest of my time shifting between those positions.

He has created a huge chasm in his own party. Recently Gomolemo Motswaledi took the President to court for suspending him from the party (the BDP). The suspension meant that he would no longer be able to contest his Gaborone Parliamentary seat. He lost at court since the Constitution of Botswana states very clearly that the President cannot be sued. It was a futile effort on the younger man's part and it backfired terribly. Not only did he lose the case- not once but twice, but he lost the wind in his sails along the way. The public were behind him- at first. But as he beat the already dead horse, we lost interest as Batswana usually do.

Batswana forget things. We get excited and talk and talk and talk and do nothing. And over a very short period of time we forget. Who even mentions Kalafatis now? Were his murderers sentenced? No. Did the case take place? No. Was there ever an investigation into the allegations that members of the BDF and members of DIS were handed over to a rich private citizen, a friend to the President, for his own personal manhunt? No. And it will all slip away and be forgotten.

Or will it?

We'll know after the elections if Batswana were moved by these events- enough to make a statement at the ballot box. Do I think the ruling party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will be pushed from power? No, I don't. There are just too many people who don't understand how a true democracy works. They still operate from the position of the president being the kgosi- the chief who has their best interests at heart. The one you respect no matter what. The one you don't question. They don't view the Parliament and the President as people accountable to them, personally, which a representative democracy is all about. And, too, our opposition parties are not strong enough.

So yes, the BDP will remain in power. The critical question will be by what margin. If they sweep in with an overwhelming mandate, then we should know the message that we are giving them. We are saying "You're doing the right thing. Continue." We should know that what happens after that we, personally, are responsible for. We should not cry for help from outside. We will have made our bed, and we should sleep in it.

If instead the BDP slips through with a thin margin, then they will have been told. They will hopefully realise that Batswana do not want wild decisions and proclamations made without forethought. We do not want to be spied on. We do not want DIS agents moving around the country without impunity attacking and killing citizens. They will understand that Batswana want change. We want the Constitution changed so that the President is not given carte blanche to do as he likes immune from prosecution. A strong opposition in Parliament will send a message that Batswana are paying attention and we do understand the concept of democracy and that we will not sit by and watch our country fall apart.

Crossing fingers come next Friday we do the right thing.


Sue Guiney said...

I, for one, am shamefully ignorant about Botswana politics. Thanks for writing this overview. To be honest, it does seem rather dangerous and frightening when I read it, but I can't honestly say democracy up here is all that much better. Yes, it is a bit, but does it always work? No. Sometimes it leaves us all stuck and scratching our heads, and for some of us, even worse.

Lyn said...

Laurie, I enjoy reading the insights of an election so very far away, from an "up and close" personal perspective. Good luck on Friday.

karen said...

Great post, I am pretty sure BDP will be in, too.

Sorry to diverge from politics for a bit, but I have to say I am still completely fascinated about your pomegranate tree, loved the last post about the garden :)

Lauri said...

Karen- pomegranates are very easy to grow in Botswana. We have lived in many houses as both my husband and I are teachers (he still is) and government teachers live in the teachers' houses within the school. At every school we were at we planted pomegranate trees. They're usually loaded with fruit even when neglected. Unfortunately ours seem to have been actively abused by our former tenants. But they are also very resilient.

We have a big undeveloped plot outside Mahalapye 100 m x 100 m and I've often mentioned to my husband we should plant the whole thing with pomeganates. Lately they've been getting a lot of press for their health giving properties. I love them because they are filled of beautiful little jewel like seeds. I think they're lovely.Esp since outside they don't look very promising.

Lauri said...

Sue- actually Botswana is a funny country, in many ways very different from other African countries. Batswana don't easily get riled up. People here don't strike (except perhaps at the university and even that is quite rare) or protest. People talk a lot and then if the person doing a wrong thing persists they'll often just leave them to it with a thought that he'll see what he'll do when it all goes wrong. Because of this though what I wrote might appear dangerous or scary it's not really.

Lyn- Glad you enjoy reading a bit about Botswana. I know not many people pay us much attention.

Elspeth Futcher said...

Thanks for a very informative post. I knew a little about this from watching BBC, but it's wonderful to hear from someone 'on the ground'. In Canada the main trouble is huge apathy on the part of the voters. Our turnout on election days is frighteningly low.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

Interesting, to learn a little something about Botswana politics. People here in The States have short memories too. I don't think the American attention span is exercised enough. Every thing's instantaneous these days. I love pomegranates too! I always wanted a tree in my yard. They grow well here. When my husband goes to South Africa he always notes how similar much of the climate and terrain resembles Southern California.

Helen Ginger said...

Very informative. You pay much more attention to politics than I do. I'd rather avoid debates, so I watch in private. It was interesting to read about what's going on in your country.

Straight From Hel

T. Powell Coltrin said...

First time on your blog and very interesting, I must say.

I loved your walk in nature when technology let you down!

Lauri said...

Elspeth- I didn't know you were in Canada? I wonder how I missed that.

Elizabeth- Does your husband go to SA often? Perhaps you should get in his suitcase next time and pop over to Bots - it's not far esp. if he's in Joburg.

Journaling Woman- Thanks for stopping by.