Mmegi Blogs :: Analysis of the definition of the word democracy!
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Tuesday 11 December 2018, 17:43 pm.
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Analysis of the definition of the word democracy!

The definition of democracy as given to us, by Abraham Lincoln the American President who ignited the civil war for slave emancipation is: Government of the people by the people for the people.
By Michael Dingake Tue 09 May 2017, 16:09 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Analysis of the definition of the word democracy!








The definition like all definitions has to be restated and adequately interpreted. The people/subjects,  political leaders, political parties and nations  need to converge around the explicit and implicit meaning, values and principles of democracy, lest the concept keeps humanity in perpetual conflict .

 Setswana interpretation of democracy as defined by Abe, falls far short of the definition intent. Puso ya batho ka batho obviously shortcircuits the essence, omitting the crux of the intentional definition. The interpretation confines itself to, ‘government OF …. BY the people;’ it excludes the part of the definition, which is, ‘…. FOR the people!’ Comprehensive Setswana definition should be, ‘Puso ya batho ka batho, go direla batho!’ ‘Of’ the people strictly and correctly implies, a system of Government belonging to people, not swine or some nondescript  animal; ‘BY’ the people means a Government in which the people participate; it isn’t run by angels or some fairies! Since it’s run by the people, it’s FOR the people; in other words, it should BENEFIT them!

 Setswana definition deliberately or by default omits the core element of democracy: Government FOR the people. Do Batswana participate in their Government? Yes, once in five years they vote for their representatives in local government councils and Parliament. Is that participation as envisaged by Abe’s definition? Nope! The people who voted for the representatives must participate more, guided by information whether the representative(s) truly represent them. Where and when their interests are discussed people must be there personally or through independent media, if they cannot personally attend due to distance, time or cost constraints. If denied the opportunity the Government, is non- democratic. Five-yearly general elections isn’t  enough participation. Nor kgotla meetings convened  at awkward intervals when the people conversant with pertinent issues are at work. That’s why live broadcasts from Parliament and Council chambers are imperative for a functional democracy. Private media, armed with Freedom of Information Act , can help in dissemination of information to the public. Where facilities as mentioned above don’t exist, democracy is virtually absent.

Radio Botswana, Btv the Daily News do not inform, they are His/Her masters voice, instructing, ordering and dictating to the people what they MUST do or believe: Propaganda instruments of the ruling party! 

To attain and enjoy true democracy, of course there are other elements in the system which are basic: Human rights, the ruling of law enshrined in the constitution, independent institution to enhance  democracy: independent Public Protector, Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission, Independent media, workers’ trade unions and separate and independent arms of government reflected in the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Where none of these institutions exist or are there but manipulated by the Executive, democracy as properly understood is deficient.

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Democracy is alive, dynamic and in continuous growth and development. It must be nurtured and periodically maintained to survive and keep the rhythm with the humanity it serves, which has advanced from the stone-age to the techno-scientific age, today.

I recently read an interesting opinion by a Justice of the Botswana Court of Appeal who opined that freedom of speech, one of the precepts of democracy, is not absolute. The Justice doesn’t prescribe how absolute freedom of speech/conscience should be measured and weighed. On the other hand we know that the Constitution designates the same freedom of speech as FUNDAMENTAL. Can the two concepts of absolutism and fundamentalism be reconciled? It makes the democracy concept of ever interesting, dynamic and inherently controversial and fascinating.

A few years back we read in the media that a lady visiting Botswana seeing a picture of our President said he looked like a Bushman (Mosarwa). The lady according to reports became a subject of police enquiry and if not mistaken, persona non grata on our shores. Would she have suffered the same fate had she said the President looked like a Frenchman or an Englishman?

In the 1950s Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong during one of the concerts he and his troupe staged in London, noticed His Majesty King George VI, of Great Britain, I think it was, in the audience. Inspired by the honour to have the king among his ‘cats’ (that’s what he used to call his fans) Satchmo wiped his ample lips and shouted, “Rex, this one is for you!” And proceeded to blow his horn as best he could. to the tune of the piece he had selected for the king and the rest of the cats for the night.

The following morning one of the bigoted scribes in the local press berated Satchmo for the familiarity he arrogated to himself with the king and called him, ‘nigger,’ ‘ monkey’ and other derogatory names reserved for the black race. Why? I am still searching for the answer! Weeks or was it months before the incident, Satchmo had been reported in the American press angrily calling Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower then President of the United States, a “Two-faced jackal” ostensibly for denying him to honour the invitation from one of the USSR satellites, to perform there. It was during the madness of the ‘cold war’ between the West and the East. No hostile reaction occurred from the US press for the uncomplimentary remarks by the slave descendant. Obviously there was a deep chasm between the old democracy (Britain) and the new democracy (US). Lesson?  Democracy, is not an event, but a process. Through participation people create, enrich and define their democratic moment and direction!

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