Today Botswana, celebrates its independence, attained in 1966 from the United Kingdom.
A country of just over 2.2 million people, Botswana is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most stable democracies, which boasts of a vibrant economy. The current realities are a stark contrast to the state which was formed in 1966 when the country gained its independence. Under the leadership of Seretse Khama, Botswana was confronted with numerous challenges, which threatened its very survival, from the hostilities of the Apartheid regime to developmental challenges, poverty and infrastructural drawbacks. The country had to learn to crawl and walk fast. Indeed, Botswana quickly developed under the astute leadership of Seretse Khama.
The gains of the early years, characterised by social and economic development, premised on political stability were consolidated after the death of the country’s founding father. A nationalist Ketumile Masire who took over from Seretse Khama managed to fill the shoes of his predecessor and led Botswana on a path of steady economic and infrastructural growth. Masire stepped down in 1998 and was succeeded by Festus Mogae, who continued to steer the country towards economic prosperity, although Botswana struggled with various issues including poverty, HIV/Aids and unemployment, which Mogae’s administration vowed to continue addressing. Under the leadership of current president, Ian Khama Botswana remains one of the continent’s most stable countries. There are indeed strong suggestions of autocracy and the mistreatment of San people amongst other problems. Despite these challenges, 50 years after independence Batswana people have a lot to celebrate.
On the country’s Golden Jubilee we celebrate with Batswana and share 10 quotes from the country’s three former presidents to the current leader, to get a glimpse of how the vision of Botswana’s leaders has helped shape the country’s social, political and economic trajectory.
1. “[D]emocracy, like a little plant, does not grow or develop on its own. If must be nursed and nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. It must be believed in and practiced if it is to be appreciated. And it must be fought for and defended if it is to survive”. Seretse Khama, first president of Botswana, speech given at the opening of the fifth session of Botswana’s third National Assembly, November, 1978.
2. “It should now be our intention to try to retrieve what we can of our past. We should write our own history books to prove that we did have a past, and that it was a past that was just as worth writing and learning about as any other. We must do this for the simple reason that a nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past is a people without a soul”. Seretse Khama, speech at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, May, 1970.
3. “I think that the trouble we now face in the world is caused mainly by the refusal to try and see another man’s point of view, to try and persuade by example — and the refusal to meet a rather passionate desire to impose your own will upon others, either by force or other means”. Seretse Khama, speech delivered in Blantyre, July, 1967.
4. “Bad governance doesn’t just undermine service delivery, it retards development, and it also drives violence”. Sir Ketumile Masire, second president of Botswana, Conference on Governance and Service Delivery in Developing Economies, August, 2015.
5. “Corruption imposes heavy costs on the economy and distorts development policies. It hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development. It undermines government’s ability to provide essential services. It fuels inequality and injustice and discourages foreign investment”. Sir Ketumile Masire, Conference on Governance and Service Delivery in Developing Economies, August, 2015.
6. “Leadership is not always about you, it is about people and often circumstances. I call upon African leaders to open up to second generation rights”. Festus Mogae, third president of Botswana, as quoted in Africa Renewal (interview), 2015.
7. “We made progress in the response to aids because we took a multi-sectoral approach, engaging every part of society. My concern is that leaders are becoming complacent and that they won’t sustain this approach to aids and extend it to health beyond 2015”. Festus Mogae, quoted in UNAids article, 2013.
8. “If we fail to end AIDS by 2030, we will be directly to blame because we have the knowledge and capacity to do so”. Festus Mogae, panel discussion 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), July, 2014.
9. “Unlike some who twist the concept of democracy to suit themselves, we have stuck to these principles in that everything we do should be in the interest of our citizens. This explains our tough stance on corruption – which is all about self-interest and self-promotion. From democracy and good governance”. Ian Khama, fourth president of Botswana, as quoted in the Daily Maverick, June, 2016
10. “[A] lot of the problems with politics is the self-interest that creeps into politicians… A lot of politicians are motivated by what is in it for them. That is something I consider you have to keep your eye on very closely, that it doesn’t creep in”. Ian Khama, as quoted in the Guardian, October, 2014.
Sources: Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Africanhistory.com, and UNAids.