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Elections In Diamond Country

Coen van Wyk

Posted on September 27, 2019 15:20

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On October 23rd, Botswana will go to the polls in an election that promises to be different from any election before. A small country, punching above its weight in most aspects, has to face a rapidly changing electorate, a changing world, and new and daunting challenges.

Botswana, seen from afar, is just a dusty spot on the globe. Land locked, mostly sparsely populated desert,Botswana at independence had little going for it. With one exception: diamonds. The bush and sands of the Kalahari hid a number of diamond pipes bearing immense riches. Different from many other countries this unexpected wealth did not entail massive corruption, instead investment in infrastructure, and especially education, left the Batswana people better off than most of their neighbors.

First nation. Photo Botswanatourism.co.bw


Hominids have been living here for two million years, and their rock art and stone tools are still found in caves and shelters. Their descendants, the Khoi and San people, still live here, now a minority among other tribes that had wandered into this vast land over the past millennia. Christian missionaries, including David Livingstone, passed through, and in 1885 Britain annexed Botswana to ensure the link between their sub-Saharan colonies, the Great North Road, built on the traces of the ancient, fabled Pandamatenga trading route.

Batswana chiefs, reluctant to accept British colonial status, received Protectorate status, and in 1964 self-government was negotiated under the leadership of Sir Seretse Khama, paramount Chief of the Ngwato tribe and President from independence to 1980. Just a snapshot: at independence the per capita GDP was $ 1,344, in 2016 it was $ 15,015. Sound fiscal policies, economic freedom, negligible foreign debt, and a high sovereign credit rating underlined the good governance Botswana enjoyed.

Since independence, the Botswana Democratic Party, founded by Sir Seretse Khama, has been in power. Since 2003, the BDP was led by Ian Khama, son of the founding President and heir to the Paramount chieftainship. He had had a meteoric career in the Botswana military, had then become Vice-President, and served as President from 2008 to 2018.

Come visit. Photo thegazette.news


Over the last decade Botswana had changed dramatically. The sleepy, dusty capital now sports high rise buildings and shopping malls, the youth forsook the cattle herding lifestyle for studies at foreign universities, jobs as investment brokers, fashion designers and hotel administrators. Tourists come to see the wildlife in the desert and the fertile delta of the Okavango river. The mining industry has brought beneficiation and employment, but also a taste for a better lifestyle.

Lake Ngami. Photo worldtravelguide.net


Soon the population will go to the polls to elect a new Parliament, and possibly a new President. Khama, on leaving the Presidency, had a falling out with his successor and has left the BDP, forming a new party, but throwing his weight behind a coalition of splinter groups that had left the BDP under his tenure. Politics make strange bedfellows.

Miss Botswana finalists - sophisticated youngsters. How will they vote? Photo Botswanayouth.com


The question is: How will the young population vote? Will they follow traditional patterns, respecting tribal lines and advice from tribal elders? Will they break with the past and form new policies facing a changing world? Will they even register to vote?

Coen van Wyk

Posted on September 27, 2019 15:20

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