Botswana is a country located in the region of Southern Africa. With Botswana’s Democratic Party (BDP) in power since independence in 1966, Botswana is considered a politically stable country. Ahead of the October 2019 elections, a deep crack occurred within the party, but despite the internal conflict, BDP strengthened its position.
The ruling party has been criticized for identifying itself with the state and for exercising control over the mass media and gaining greater financial resources ahead of the electoral movements than other parties. Critics also point out that BDP has, at all stages of the presidential post, allowed the vice president to take over during the current term, which they believe is undemocratic.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Botswana, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Powerful or authoritarian?
Ian Khama, who was president between 2008 and 2018, was hailed by his followers as a powerful president. According to critics, he was rather too authoritarian. Khama was considered to gather too much power around himself, partly because many top jobs went to military officers and family members. He was also criticized for trying to silence troublesome media and opposition party mates.
The October 2014 election gave BDP its eleventh straight election victory. But the opposition that largely converged in the Alliance Alliance for Democratic Change (UDC) was more successful than in previous elections. For the first time, BDP was supported by less than half of the voters: 46.5 percent. The design of the electoral system nevertheless gave the party a satisfactory absolute majority in the National Assembly.
After the election, President Khama appointed his brother Tshekedi Minister of Environment and Tourism. It was widely speculated that the president planned to appoint the brother as vice president and prepare for him to take over as head of state and government. Khama also requested that the vice-president be appointed by hand-raising in the National Assembly, rather than by secret ballot. But the country’s highest court, the Court of Appeal, put a stop to it. Shortly thereafter, the National Assembly appointed Education Minister Mokgweetsi Masisi as Vice President.
When Khama completed his two terms in spring 2018, he was succeeded by Masisi. Almost immediately after the change of power, Masisi and Khama ended up on a coalition course as Masisi partially changed the policy that Khama pursued. Among other things, Masisi dismissed the head of the country’s security service, Isaac Kgosi, who was a close ally of Khama. The dismissal of Kgosi created a crack in the BDP between supporters of Khama and Masisi’s allies. When the conflict deepened, Khama chose to leave the BDP and founded a new party.
Ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections on October 23, 2019, Khama urged his supporters to vote for the opposition alliance UDC in the areas where his new party BPF did not run for candidates. However, the disagreement between Masisi and Khama does not appear to have hurt BDP, which strengthened its position compared to the 2014 election (read more in the Calendar).
Conflict with the Bushmen
The Government of Botswana has continued to receive unwanted international attention because of a dispute over the right of indigenous peoples to stay on their traditional lands in the large game reserve Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the Kalahari Desert. The authorities moved around 5,000 bushmen (see Population and Languages) from the area from the mid-1990s . Their villages were destroyed and water holes were laid again. The official purpose of the move was that they should have access to modern education and healthcare. In 2006, a court ordered the government to allow the Bushmen to return, which hundreds did. But the government is accused of trying to stop the return, including by blocking the Bushmen from accessing water. After several legal trips, in 2011 a ruling was made in the Court of Appeal that gave the Bushmen the right.
The dispute continues despite the court order. The government is accused of drilling water holes for animals and providing a clear sign for luxury tourism with swimming pools on the bushmen’s lands. A company has also been given the right to extract diamonds in the reserve. There are reports that bushmen have been arrested, beaten and imprisoned for hunting, by park guards and police.
No bushmen have been given a hunting license while well-heeled tourists who are trophy hunters are allowed to hunt on the ground. In January 2014, a nationwide hunting ban was issued, without specifically notifying the Bushmen or offering them any compensation. The organization Survival International, which oversees the rights of indigenous peoples, has then, in an advertising campaign, called for a tourist boycott against Botswana.
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Botswana/Republic of Botswana
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Mokgweetsi Masisi (2018–)
Head of government
President Mokgweetsi Masisi (2018–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 38, Democratic Change Collection (UDC) 15, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) 3, other 1 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 37, Democratic Change Collection (UDC) 17, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) 3 (2014)
85% in the 2014 parliamentary election, figures for the October 23, 2019 election are not yet available
parliamentary elections 2024; no presidential election is held – the president is elected by Parliament