The region of today’s Botswana was settled relatively late due to the unfavourable climatic conditions and the low water resources. Although there are prehistoric settlements, settlers probably entered the region on a larger scale when population pressure and armed conflict increased in southern Africa. This happened with the advance of the Europeans from the Cape region and the great Bantu migrations in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the second half of the 20th century (from 1966 to 1992) we encountered the Republic of Botswana, a seemingly peaceful, low-conflict island in the midst of the South African crisis region shaken by apartheid. The Tswana tribes living here, and with them a handful of less respected ethnic groups, achieved political independence as the nation of the Tswana (Botswana) in 1966. This prevented them from being integrated into the South African Republic. Since then, Botswana, one of the world’s 20 poorest countries, has experienced a completely unexpected economic boom based on state-controlled, corruption-free diamond production. In terms of good governance and average per capita income, Botswana is one of the richest, most stable and most peaceful countries in Africa.
Botswana has a long tradition of free and lively public debate. The constitution indirectly guarantees the press and freedom of expression in accordance with the Media Practioner Bill. The US NGO Freedom House classifies the press in Botswana as “free and engaged” in both urban and rural areas.
The opposition and the media feel largely committed to the criteria of the “African Media Barometer”. However, they complain that the government under President Ian Khama impeded and limited freedom of the press. The 2008 Media Practitioners Bill allows the state to increase control and regulation of the media.
In international press freedom statistics, Botswana ranked 62nd out of 178 countries in 2010 and 48th out of 180 rated countries within seven years in 2017. Below is a list of the carriers of public news and opinions:
- Radio/TV (state): The President’s Office heads the Media Division. This division is responsible for Radio Botswana (RB1, RB2) and Botswana Television (BTV).
- Television (private): The South African providers M-Net, MultiChoice and Deukom can also receive their international programmes for a fee.
- Communication: The state-owned Botswana Telecommunications Corp. (BTC) operates a fixed and a mobile network. Orange and Mascom offer mobile networks as private competitors. All providers can also be contracted for an Internet that is relatively reliable in Africa.
Ditshwanelo is a Botswana-based human rights organisation that is very active in promoting human dignity and equality regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and social status.
Despite a considerable tolerance of civic legal practice by African standards, Botswana’s policy deals with the use of violence and abuse in significant areas.
None of the country’s political parties question the death penalty in Botswana. Botswana’s criminal law provides for the death penalty for murder, treason, attempted assassination of the head of state and for military offences such as mutiny or desertion. However, the death penalty is very rarely imposed. Since 2007, 9 death sentences have been carried out.
The nationalization of the Betschuana country after the Second World War, the process of independence and state building in Botswana was supported and pursued by the Tswana tribes. It is understandable that smaller ethnic groups in remote areas and the so-called Bushmen (San) were initially not represented and have only been raising their voices and claiming their rights since the turn of the millennium.
Botswana’s constitution provides a good constitutional and legal basis for respecting human rights. However, the opposition deplores the actions of the secret police which violate human rights and which are listed as police offences through state punitive measures, e.g. torture. Opposition members are punished without legal assistance.
Although women enjoy the same civil rights as men, in reality they are still disadvantaged by a number of “traditional laws”. Discussions, enlightenments and disputes regarding gender practice and politics are part of the image of the media public. Part of the standard repertoire of public speeches is that women are encouraged to get involved at all levels of society, in political parties and politics, in business and the public sector (in the field of “society and culture” the gender issue is taken up once again).
The intolerance of same-sex relationships is widespread in Botswana. The majority of Botswana citizens refuse to work with homosexual colleagues and brothers in faith or to celebrate church services. However, the Supreme Court recently allowed the same-sex organisation LEGABIBO to be registered as a national civil organisation. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time in favour of a Trans-Gender citizen that he would be accepted in his personal documents not as a female but as a male.
Domestic policy issues
The main objectives of Botswana’s domestic policy are the development of the country to eradicate poverty (development of rural areas, development of infrastructure, education and health care), strengthening economic power and the optimum use of natural resources and minerals, as well as establishing public security.
Domestic policy priorities include education and training, health care, the corruption-free use of natural resources, the promotion of agricultural crops and cattle breeding to ensure a basic income for each family (subsistence farming), and the maintenance of wildlife and national parks for international safari tourism, Reduction of the one-sided dependence on the diamond industry through diversification of industrial projects, qualification offensives and promotion of interested Batswana, entrepreneurship (CEDA), poverty and corruption reduction, development of infrastructure and water supply.
The government also strives in a sustainable and credible manner to create a political framework to strengthen democracy, ensure peaceful coexistence of ethnic groups and tolerance among denominations, and respect religious and political convictions.
In terms of democracy, good governance and corruption assessment, Botswana ranks first in the sub-Saharan region. Botswana has also been ranked highly in the world’s corruption index for 3 decades. Hand money for public services is frowned upon, punishable and prosecuted. The state authority responsible for this is the Directorate of Corruption and Crime, which pursues the slogan of “zero tolerance for corruption”. This authority operates at the level of ordinary state bureaucracy and provides citizens and applicants with standard services, usually completely free of corruption. Even small favors or gifts are rare. This is where Botswana sets itself apart from the customs of other African countries. It is criticized that since Botswana’s independence the BDP (Botswana Democratic Party) has led the government without interruption, as it has won all elections clearly.
The traditional status of their representatives helped them to win the elections without any danger. Thus, all 10 parliamentary elections since independence could be won unchallenged. The BDP continues to dominate the party landscape in Botswana and the parliament despite some factionalizations and increasing electoral apathy. The BDP’s unbroken rule is supported by the majority voting system, which prevents a proportional representation in parliament (=national assembly) that corresponds to the number of voters. In this context, the conflict of interests, patronage and nepotism of Botswana’s political elite and the seizure of state resources are lamented.
It is noteworthy that President Seretse Khama Ian Khama chose the motto of 5 “Ds” for his term of office: “Democracy” (democracy), “Development”, “Dignity”, “Discipline” and “Delivery”.
In summary, Botswana has evolved from one of the poorest to one of the richest countries in Africa (upper middle income country) thanks to a solid domestic and economic policy and a sensible use of the revenues from diamond deposits, and is regarded as a model for other African states.