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Thoughts On Botswana Politics, Voting (I)

I would like to get a few facts out of the way before delving into this very, for me, thorny area. Listen, I have no affiliation with any political party as at present.

And I hope you don’t, when you read this, assume I am arguing that during our next elections, vote for one party over the other. This piece is more of a question than anything else. I am a citizen, pondering on the question of politics.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, have you registered to vote? Botswana’s 12th elections since independence are coming up in October 2019, and registration is currently open until November. I find myself sitting with many questions, and reflections in this time. Botswana is a democratic state. In any democracy, elections are important as they are supposed to reflect the wishes of the country’s citizenry, even though, as rightly observed by Maundeni and Kekgaditse,

“In post-independence Botswana, as much as there are consultations with the people on a number of issues of national concern, such consultations are a mere formality as they fail to reflect and represent the voices of some key sections of the society (like minorities, civil society, youth, women, labour movement, corporate sector and the media) as should be the case in a democracy.”

I understand that in the past 11 elections, in rural Botswana, more women have voted than men, and the converse is true in urban and peri-urban locations. Statistics also show that women are more inclined to vote for the current ruling party, and men more often vote for the opposition. Further, fewer youth within the age bracket 18-27years, vote than any other group.

Had you asked me, 10 years ago, whether I think I should vote, I would have flat out said no! I thought, I will not vote because it doesn’t affect me, and it’s not for me. If I were to vote for someone, it would be because they are a friend of a relative. In fact, I went through university without voting, once, in the SRC.

I believed politics do not include me. What I didn’t realise then, that I have grown to learn is that even that is  politics. And in fact that is the nature of politics in Botswana. Our politics are partisan politics, with an active parliament at the helm of it all. They are by and large, exclusive. I am learning that in as much as many of us think we

want to stay away from politics as life disclaimers, there is no avoiding them, as they impact us, daily. So the wiser thing would be to influence them. How do we do this? By getting our heads into it.

This doesn’t mean only voting during elections year. Honestly, by that point, decisions have already been made. Within political parties, strategies are built regarding who to select as candidates, and who to support.

The political party does this with various considerations, few of which are ever to do with, the candidate who will serve their community best; and more to do with who  we as voters, are more likely to vote for. Once candidates are selected, the leaders within the same political parties then decide who to stand with. That will usually influence how a lot of people vote. Who they like. I have heard few people actively consider who to vote for, on the basis of their politics. The stakes seem to be set really low. So there is little that could even possibly disappoint us.

I wonder how it would be, if we had priorities as a nation, and advanced those. Not the priorities decided for us by parliament. But priorities decided by us. Like if we decided that as a beacon of human rights, we will insist on political parties that align themselves with movements that advocate for the advancement of human rights.

Or if we decided we want a government that encourages the empowerment of marginalised tribes, women and youth? How would our insistence be reflected in parliament?

We are, many of us an afterthought to the democracy that is our country. Often because we hone the enabling environment for the exclusion explored by Maundeni and Suping in their publication, The Politics of Exclusion in Botswana: A Creation of the Independence Talks. This is not to say that it is our fault that we are where we are.

And I acknowledge there have been positive feats in getting us here. But we must admit that there is a lot that needs straightening out. Our involvement in the politics that develop our country is critical in achieving this. There should be nothing decided for us in our absence. So, how active are we in our own lives?


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