Botswana embrace democracy, chieftainship

Gaborone – The majority of people in Botswana approve of their traditional local chieftainships, who are not democratically elected, while at the same time endorsing democracy and rejecting undemocratic forms of government, an Afrobarometer survey has revealed.
Endorsement of these chieftainships  remains high regardless of the respondent's level of education or whether he lives in an urban or rural area, the survey shows.
“Traditional and modern institutions are perceived to be irreconcilable, but Batswana do not share that view.
“Paradoxically, overwhelming majorities support both democracy and chieftainship,” said University of Botswana academic, Gladys Mokhawa, who was part of a team that compiled the study.
She said Bagosi (chiefs) are traditional local leaders whose authority is defined by Botswana's constitution; they have no legislative powers, but often arbitrate conflicts in local disputes.
The chieftainship is traditionally hereditary, but is now an appointment.  The nature and extent of their powers are still being debated.
“Botswana is widely acclaimed as a model of democracy in Africa. Perhaps the blending of traditional and democratic institutions accounts for Botswana’s relative political stability. The data suggests Bagosi are necessary as partners in democratisation,” explained Mokhawa.
On other topical issues, the researchers found that Botswana citizen’s ratings of the government's economic performance slipped in 2012, with 67 percent of survey respondents approving or strongly approving of the government's economic management, compared with 76 percent in 2008.
Respondents from the most productive group in the economy, people from 26 to 65 years old, were among the most concerned about the government's economic performance.
“While majority of all groups said the government handled the economy “fairly well” or better, 33 percent of respondents aged 26 to 35 and a similar proportion of 36-to-45 year-olds said the government handled the economy badly or very badly. A slightly smaller proportion, 29 percent of the 46-to-55 year age group, said the government performed badly, as did a similar proportion of 56-to-65 year olds,” said Mokhawa.
The youngest group surveyed gave the highest approval ratings for the government's handling of the economy with 75 percent of people aged 18 to 25 reporting that the government does fairly or very well in handling the economy. Only 26 percent of this group reports that the government is not doing well.
Factors that could account for the strong approval ratings include the government's pro-youth interventions such as Internship programme, Youth Development Fund, and Youth Empowerment Scheme.
Afrobarometer conducts public attitude surveys covering as many as 35 African countries.
The surveys provide comparisons over time, as four rounds have been conducted from 1999 to 2008 and Round 5 is currently underway.
Afrobarometer’s work in Botswana is coordinated by the Southern African Barometer research team at the University of Botswana.
Fieldwork for Round 5 was conducted in Botswana from June 30 to July 11 2012. The survey interviewed 1200 adult Batswana, and a sample of this size yields results with a margin of error of +/-3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

April 2013
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