The question in Africa that is being asked is whether or not democracy has failed or similarly, whether or not democracy as the Western world knows it, is unworkable or not suitable for modern day Africa. It is not uncommon that where African countries are labelled as being supposedly democratic, they are also characterized by awful human rights abuses, ethnic conflicts and economic chaos. A large number of African leaders argue that democracy is something that would tear Africa away from its roots as a nation and is ‘anti-African’ culture. An example can be seen in China’s successful economic rise without democracy and this seems to have emboldened those who argue that Africa should push for development first before thinking about putting in a place a proper platform for democratic solidarity. Despite the fact that almost all of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa introduced multi-party elections during the 1990’s and that region has seen democratic progress over the years, only nine out of the regions forty-nine states were considered to be free and democratic. Botswana’s multiparty democracy has been portrayed by various academic researchers as a perfect example of a living democracy in Africa. This can be primarily due to the relatively free and fair elections that Botswana currently have, their political tolerance, multiparty competition (to an extent) and the rule of law and universal franchise. These elements mean that Botswana is able to survive as a liberal democracy.
Democracy within elections:
Albeit elections alone are insufficient for democracy, they are nevertheless a prerequisite. This is due to the fact that they promote political participation and competition needed for democracy. It’s the failure or absence of fair and free elections that largely defines a dictatorship. Botswana is a unique case in terms of its political and economic stability. It has held free and fair elections every year since its independence in 1966. It has managed to gain a reputation across Africa for being almost totally free of corruption; for having an independent judiciary, for having no reported political prisoners and for being a country that holds a human rights record that has been keep relatively clean compared to that of the majority of the other African nations. In recent years there has been a few adjustments to the political policies in Botswana. In 2014, an independent commission was appointed to manage elections and paired with this, the voting age has been age has been lowered from 21 to 18. However, despite these adjustments that on the forefront look positive, there are a number of democratic practices that have the potential to weaken the nation; a fragmented opposition, a weak civil society and an under developed media sector. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has dominated the countries policies since its independence in 1966. The only opposition for many years is the left from center political party The ‘Botswana National Front’ Party. Until the elections in 1994, the Democratic Party had overwhelmingly controlled the vote, allowing the National Front party to gain no more than 6 seats. However, in the 1994 elections, the Botswana National Front party won 37.1% of the vote, gaining 13 seats in parliament. This surprise result, for many people, made it look like The National Front was a serious contender to the Democratic party’s dominance throughout Botswana. However, in 1998, after numerous disputes about leadership within the party, 11 of the 13 elected MP’s left the party to form the rival party ‘The Botswana congress party’. The two minor parties currently hold 10 seats between them out of the 57 available. This explicitly shows how The Botswana Democratic party is still thriving across the country and will remain in power for many years to come. These rival opposition party’s remain organizationally weak due to lack of resources and funding and therefore makes it extremely difficult for them to break through into parliament. This much dominance from one party within Botswana has the potential to diminish Botswana’s status as a democracy. For a country to properly thrive it is argued that more than one main national political party is needed to allow for a fair representation of the people. It is for this reason, that however dominant the Democratic Party is seen to be, in terms of its usefulness for distilling democracy, it falls way short. The center piece for Botswana’s democracy is held within the uniqueness of the local council system. When Botswana gained independence in 1966, the local councils were given many of the powers formerly exercised by tribal chiefs. The fact that many duties are controlled mainly by local councilors directly feeding off what the people of Botswana want mean it is easier from democracy to be heard across the country. The local councils re responsible for; constructing and operating primary schools, maintaining public water supplies, building and repairing rural roads and supporting different development projects wherever they feel it is a necessary obligation to do so. Seretse Khama, Quett Masire and Festus Mogae, the three leaders that of Botswana from 1996 – 2008 were all highly credited with presiding over both political and economic stability in the country. However, since Ian Khama came to rule, economic growth has slowed massively, youth unemployment is on the rise and in 2011, Botswana saw its biggest ever public wage strike. These three things pose a massive threat to the overall stability of Democracy within Botswana.
Even though country can possess the substantive features of democracy, democratic consolidation as a concept is not an easy task. Diamond (1977) has a clear viewpoint on where democratic consolidation lies:
The effect of corruption on democratic consolidation:
Botswana is perceived to be one of the least corrupt countries in Africa, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). In 2013, Botswana scored 64, which placed it 30th of 175 countries. Botswana is also shown to have solid control of corruption in the country with a score of 79.43 percent on a 0 to 100 scale. However, this falls short to that of its highest score of 85.85 per cent in 2003, whilst under rule from Festus Mogae (The World Bank 2013). In recent years there have been serious allegations made against the Botswana Democratic Party saying that they favour the Rich and that they regularly rig elections. Following the inauguration for Ian Khama’s second term as president in 2014, Khama went to court to seek an amendment to seek a reform on how the deputy speaker and vice president are elected. Khama wanted MP’s to vote for their desired candidate by a show of hands rather than a secret ballot.
Botswana’s democracy compromised by Human Rights:
Beetham David, ‘Introduction: Human Rights in the study of politics’, Politics and Human Rights, Edited by David Beetham, Blackwell, 1995