Mmegi Blogs :: Is democracy working when one party rules for 50 years?
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Friday 19 January 2018, 18:00 pm.
Is democracy working when one party rules for 50 years?

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been ruling the Republic of Botswana for more than 50 years! Can we honestly say the multi-party democratic system of government Batswana subscribe to, is working?
By Michael Dingake Tue 29 Aug 2017, 17:32 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Is democracy working when one party rules for 50 years?

Multi-party democracy implies a government of many parties. The concept that there must be many parties in the Constitution of a democratic government underlines the fact that people by nature have diverse views as to how best they should be ruled. In addition times change and so people change their orientation. Life is not static, but dynamic.

At a BDP seminar in 1983, the late Dr QKJ Masire is reported in these words to define democracy: “Democracy is nothing new in this country. We have always practised it at our Kgotlas. You will know that this democratic concept is implied in the Setswana saying: Mmua-lebe o bua la gagwe… That means everyone has the right to speak his mind. It doesn’t matter how disagreeably you regard his point of view. And at our Kgotla meetings, men and women irrespective of their social standing, contributed to the debates on matters of public interest. We have therefore blended our democratic tradition with the modern political system..”  Democracy at work .. (A Dialogue between Political theory and Practice).

It isn’t accurate to say that the Kgotlas were democratic institutions, nor that both men and women were participants in the Kgotla system. Free speech may be an element of democracy, but it’s wrong to equate free speech with the system of government, democracy is. Kgotlas were a system of hereditary rule , in which only persons born in the royal family succeeded to the throne. Largely, it was males who participated in the Kgotla palaver and ascended to power.

Free speech reigned, but decisions were by  Kgosi, not the men who pretended to deliberate the issues presented by the Kgosi. Modern democracy is heir to Greek City democracy which incidentally excluded women, aliens and slaves. Greek democracy major contribution was that the ‘enfranchised,’ meeting in public chose representatives to manage public affairs and these could be recalled by the people who elected them when they failed in their duties.

Today we have the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), an organisation democratic  countries belong to, including Botswana. The IPU has declared principles to which the members should adhered to. Amongst these are regular, but free and fair elections, honest and transparent government. IPU recognises democracy as an ideal as well as a goal, based on common values shared by people throughout the world community, irrespective of cultural, political, social and economic differences. It’s thus a basic right of citizenship to be exercised under conditions of freedom, equality and responsibility with due respect for the plurality of views and in the interest of the community.

To be noted under this principle is that democracy is as an ideal, a goal,


to strive for. BDP government adopted multiparty democracy, from inception, that is when Botswana became independent 51 years ago. Multi-party concept of democracy implies that power  rotates through credible periodic general elections. The BDP has ruled the country since 1965! They have adopted a fake slogan, “There is still no alternative!” Interrogated, the slogan falls flat on its face, because the BDP in the course of time has built roadblocks for other parties to access power! Yes, ruling party to its credit has held five-yearly periodic general elections, ostensibly to afford other political parties an opportunity to be elected.

The element of regular elections however is hollow if interrogated in depth. It doesn’t go far enough. This is why: Domkrag has been player, referee and linesman in the general elections game. Domi denies opposition parties public funding while it uses public resources to fight the elections; BDP besides, monopolises Btv, Radio Botswana, The Daily News newspaper, to publicise its election platforms; on top of it all, it enjoys the lion’s share of donations from business companies who benefit from ‘tender allocation ’ kickbacks!

One principle of the IPU is:”…Party organisation, activities, finances, funding and ethics must be properly regulated in an impartial manner in order to ensure the integrity of the democratic processes…” The principle is not observed under Domkrag political environment! In the beginning , general elections were run by the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), a public servant; when this was exposed by the opposition, Domkrag appointed the party’s card-carrying member to supervise elections!

The opposition had to make more noise to have the IEC, whose independence as constituted, remains susceptible. Members of the IEC are appointed by the President, report to his office and have no say in the delimitation of electoral constituencies or the apparent state media bias towards the ruling party. The current controversy of the Electoral Voting Machines is being smuggled into the polling booth through the Secretary of the IEC, now appointed the Consultant to the IEC! The ruling party has no scruples to impose these EVMs on a wide-awake public without consultation! Criminal!

  In the history of the democratic elections process, only one ruling party in the democratic  world, Mexico, has managed to stay in power for 70 years! How? By denying its rivals public funding.

The moment public funding was extended to opposition parties, the government of the crooks, crumbled like a house of cards! It is not that opposition parties have no alternative policies but due to the fact that the ruling BDP is playing a very dirty game. The DISS phenomenon has brought into play another complicating dimension!


As I see It
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