Parliament was yesterday scheduled to launch Botswana Speaks, a pilot participatory website initiative aimed at facilitating interaction between members of the public and their elected representatives online and via mobile phones' Short Messaging System (SMS).
Styled Botswana Speaks, the pilot project was to be launched alongside a public lecture at the University of Botswana's (UB) Library Auditorium explaining - and celebrating - this quantum leap. According to advance information on the project, the pilot phase of Botswana Speaks is run from this month until December. Four constituencies - the South East South, Nata/Gweta, Maun West and Boteti North - have been selected for the test run of the project after which it is to be rolled out countrywide.
The key objectives of this project - to get citizens better connected with their elected representatives and render to them an opportunity to get involved in the national decision-making process - are immensely laudable. For example, when Parliament is debating a bill, the public should be able to comment on the bill even in real time.
This is a quantum leap for a democracy that has been more in name than in reality; for a country whose representatives lord it over people instead of the other way round and one where the ruling party has routinely used its majority status to frustrate well-meaning motions from the opposition. Rejection of the Freedom of Information Bill and subsequent backhanded adoption of BOCRA stand out among many such tragic chapters that have proved hollow and vacuous the loud assertions of democracy for Botswana. With President Ian Khama's bibliophobia and notoriety for the party-line and the infamy of the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi for blind worship of his mentor, Botswana
Indeed, one that has turned on itself by devouring wholesale even aspects of democracy that are singularly peculiar to Botswana. We refer here, for example, to the way President Khama and his ministers think nothing of disregarding the once apolitical status of the Kgotla by going to that mighty forum to do thinly disguised Domkrag work to the extent of parading their future candidates. But perhaps the greatest achievement of Botswana Speaks lies in its potential to make ordinary Batswana aware of how much their government has become a veritable kleptocracy the size of which must be matchless in Africa.
"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."
- John F Kennedy