Political funding key to nurturing democracy

“We campaigned well, but…”“Unlike the other camp, we did not have cash, blankets, food and other freebies with which to influence votes…”

“We did not have a helicopter to assist our travels around the country…”

These were the expressions of some of the candidates who lost in the contest for various positions in the Botswana Democratic Party congress held last weekend.

Obviously, the loudest complaints came from the loosing candidates for the position of BDP chairman, which was won by vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi. It is intriguing to hear from BDP members that contesting against an individual who has the support of state resources, or who has such state resources at his disposal can be disadvantageous. They acknowledged that incentives such as food, alcohol, and even blankets have power to make the voters to fall for and vote for the person irrespective of the attainability of his promises.

We take this opportunity to congratulate the weekend winners, despite the accusations levelled against them. However, we hope that since this was an internal matter of the ruling party, the winners and losers will come together and reconsider their party’s position on State funding of political parties, the subject which has dominated political forums for decades. We say this fully aware that there are many in the BDP who subscribe to this idea, amongst them the assistant minister of local government Botlogile Tshireletso who has travelled to many parts of this continent on election observer missions. It is also our view that even the new chairman of the party, and his secretary general Botsalo Ntuane appreciate the high cost of campaigning for a political office be it at council or parliamentary level.

This country has made many strides in terms of financial assistance to its citizens on access to justice through the newly introduced legal aid; farming and food production through ISPAAD; as well as making accommodation accessible through government housing schemes among others. It is therefore baffling that the same state does not want to nurture our democracy by providing funding for political parties.

New democracies, and even some dictatorship, seem to appreciate the need to nurture democracy. Our neighbours in the north, Zimbabwe, despite the political instability that has rocked the country for 15 years, continue to fund political parties. In Namibia, the state started funding of political parties in 1997. The South African constitution adopted in 1992 prescribes funding of political parties as an entitlement.

All these states acquired independence long after Botswana. Also, many observer missions for our previous elections have recommended that we adopt state funding of political parties but in vain.

We urge our legislators, and the ruling party leadership to seriously apply their minds to this issue and find funding models in the interest of our democracy.

Today’s thought

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” 

  - James Bovard

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