065_G19_InFocus_Botawana

Global

In Focus Botswana Conspiracy theories abounded. One newspaper’s screaming headline asked ‘Who killed Gomolemo?’, suggesting that his death had been caused by agencies other than purely an accident. The matter was under police investigation at the time of going to press, but political assassinations are so out of keeping with the Botswana character that it is unlikely that anything suspicious will emerge. The rise of Ian Khama to the presidency is seen as the closing of a circle that had begun 65 years ago. His dual racial heritage is also seen as a natural outcome of Botswana’s strong cultural traditions and the modern world. At the outset of his presidency, there was considerable anticipation, especially among the young, that a new, more exciting era was about to begin in the country. For all its wealth, the unemployment rate in Botswana, at around 20 per cent, is still far too high and the poverty rate is also far higher than one would expect for a country that in all other respects is exemplary. Botswana’s biggest problem is the small size of its population, which makes any form of industrialisation little more than a job-creating exercise. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that it is landlocked, the country has perhaps the most detailed diversifi cation plan of any other country in Southern Africa. But it has human resource issues. HIV/AIDS has taken a terrible toll on the best and brightest, and alcoholism is a serious problem. One of Khama’s fi rst actions on becoming President was to impose surtaxes on alcohol, but this did not go down well at all. His insistence on discipline was regarded Parliament Building, Gaborone, home of the National Assembly as heavy handed and provoked the split within his party. Khama’s refusal to be browbeaten made him a target for the opposition, who accused him of failing to canvas wider views before acting. He also found himself caught between supporting the rights of people like the San to live in their traditional modes in the central Kalahari Desert and the need to provide all citizens with basic amenities, such as running water, education and health facilities. Nevertheless, he has overseen some substantial changes within the social dimensions of the country, particularly in terms of rights of women – for example, a famous case has overturned the traditional law that only male relatives were entitled to inherit. Another court ruling overturned a decision by the government to remove the desertdwelling San from their traditional homes in the heart of the country’s national park and has given them the right to return to their former homes if they wish to do so. After an awkward fi rst two years of his presidency, Ian Khama seems to have found the right balance between his brand of disciplined progress and the pace that the rest of the country is comfortable with. It seems almost certain that, come October, the BDP will romp in again and Khama will have another fi ve years in which to further embellish the stature of one of Africa’s most enviable countries. www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 65


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