DEMOCRATIC change if Africa has become predictable like elsewhere in the world. A lot of progress has been made and continues to be made in terms of changing governments in Africa as democracy becomes entrenched on the continent.
In the past, Africa teemed with despots such as Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko, Daniel Arap Moi, Sani Abacha, Charles Taylor, Kamuzu Banda, to mention but a few. No more.
One of the reasons why this ever happened is that external forces propped up some of these dictators who for self-serving interests turned a blind eye on democracy.
That said, Africa south of the Sahara has most encouragingly seen winds of change that have ushered in a new era. In South Africa, the change of leadership from Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman and anti-apartheid icon, to Thabo Mbeki smoothly started in the twilight of the latter’s presidency. He started giving over certain key functions to his politically anointed heir. By the time the real hand-over of power took place, it was almost indiscernible
This example was replicated this week when Seretse Khama Ian Khama took over the reigns from Festus Mogae to become the President of Botswana.
To hand-over the reigns mid-stream when one is almost on the other side of the river is not too common. In his address to the nation in the sunset of his presidency, Mogae said Botswana’s democracy was founded on the basis of that country’s constitution, which guarantees civil liberties and the fundamental freedoms of its citizens including the freedom of association, expression and religion.
He said the separation of powers among the three arms of his government, just as in the case of the family three-legged black African pot is fundamental, as without the support of any one leg the pot would come tumbling down.
Botswana continues to be one of the rare African success stories. One such rare example about Botswana is that the State fully pays for primary education. It abolished the payment of school fees in 1981. Parents only contribute 5 percent towards school fees for children attending secondary school. Twenty five percent of its budget goes to education. Government also subsidises fees for parents with more than one school-going child.
Its public service is one of the best in Africa. Mogae’s moral compass has been democracy, rule of law, development, self-reliance and unity – bringing together a multitude of tribes. Interestingly, tribal politics seems none existent in that country.
Khama, his successor, noted in his incoming speech that immense strides in the areas of economic management, gender equality, and the fight against HIV/Aids, infrastructure development and social transformation have been the benchmarks of Mogae’s rule.
He quoted his predecessor as saying: “I have not allowed political expediency and the pursuit of populism to cloud my judgment and service to the nation. For the road to political expediency and populism may be lined with cheering crowds, but in the end we cannot escape the cold hard facts of our limitations as a developing country.”
This glorious example by Southern Africa’s shining gem should be emulated.