Transition to bad governance in Botswana

The celebratory rhetoric associated with Botswana is that of an “African miracle”, highlighting its exceptionality in being able to transition towards a democratic state after it obtained independence from colonial power in 1966. Against all odds, it was able to develop a functioning multi-party democracy with relatively free and fair elections, rule of law, and universal franchise. Several studies underline the structural and actionable causes that allowed democratic principles to
rapidly spread: maintenance of pre-colonial political institutions, limited colonial exploitation by the British, an endowment in natural resources, effective economic management, and enlightened leadership. However, the most senior democracy in the African continent is undergoing a period of uncertainty and slowdown. An analysis of the indicators of good governance reveals how Botswana is not proceeding towards the successful path on which it embarked more than four decades ago, rather it is downgrading in several components over the 2008-2018 period.

Botswana

Botswana, the longtime African champion of free elections, autonomous bureaucracy and judiciary has slightly regressed over the past decade. Trends are contradictory, with on one hand fiscal transparency, one of the country’s strong points, backsliding, and on the other some new oversight legislation introduced. While anticorruption gets embroiled in political conflict, the way ahead is through more transparency using e-government and e-participation, where great untapped potential exists. Anticorruption prosecution is most convincing when going after people currently in office, not those in opposition.

Transitions to Good Governance: Creating Virtuous Circles of Anti-corruption

Why have so few countries managed to leave systematic corruption behind, while in many others modernization is still a mere façade? How do we escape the trap of corruption, to reach a governance system based on ethical universalism? In this unique book, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Michael Johnston lead a team of eminent researchers on an illuminating path towards deconstructing the few virtuous circles in contemporary governance. The book combines a solid theoretical framework with quantitative evidence and case studies from around the world. While extracting lessons to be learned from the success cases covered, Transitions to Good Governance avoids being prescriptive and successfully contributes to the understanding of virtuous circles in contemporary good governance.

Offering a balanced but always grounded perspective, this collection combines analytic narratives of existing virtuous circles and how they were established, with an analysis of the global evidence. In doing so the authors explain why governance is so resistant to change, and describe the lessons to be remembered for international anti-corruption efforts. Exploring the primacy of politics over economic development, and in order to understand how vicious circles can be broken, the expert contributions trace the progress of countries that have successfully transitioned. Unprecedentedly, this book goes beyond the tests of different variables to showcase human agency on every continent, and reveals why some nations make the best and others the worst of the same development legacies.

This comprehensive examination of virtuous circles of governance will appeal to all scholars with an interest in transitions, democratization, anti-corruption and good governance. Policy-makers and practitioners in the fields of international development, good governance and democracy support will find it an invaluable resource.

Reviews for this publication

“Vicious cycles, where corruption breeds corruption, present special challenges. Nevertheless, some success stories exist. The case studies in this edited volume highlight reforms that created virtuous cycles, where honesty breeds honesty. Nevertheless, the authors caution that reforms may be fragile and incomplete if policies do not shift expectations and behavior sufficiently enough toward a new, less-corrupt status quo.”

Susan Rose-Ackerman, Yale University

Background paper on Botswana

When compared to its African peers, Botswana is globally acknowledged for its relatively good democratic governance, prudent economic management and sustained multi-party system of government. Botswana’s postcolonial leaders have been given credit for their visionary leadership which has successfully blended modern and traditional institutions to create a participatory and economically viable democracy from an originally poverty-stricken country that was still being governed under traditional ideas of leadership when it achieved independence in 1966. Botswana has used the rule of law to transform a semi-autocratic traditional governance system of chiefs and associated centralised decision-making structures into relatively representative and transparent institutions of central and local government. The current system of governance is largely anchored in principles of both competition and merit as modes of operation, but although corruption  was not a critical challenge during the country’s earlier post-independence years, in the two decades from about 1990 it has become a serious and growing feature of Botswana´s society. This case study analyses the evolution of corruption as a major challenge to the sustaining of Botswana’s democratic and development. The main aim of this country report is to establish by use of meaningful indicators the state of corruption in Botswana and to depict societal responses in their attempts to control it.

Control of Corruption: the Road to Effective Improvement. Lessons from Six Progress Cases

In the last two decades, the emergence of an international good governance agenda has fostered the implementation of anti-corruption efforts in several countries. Nevertheless, recent assessments of those efforts reveal that the vast majority of initiatives have not produced concrete positive results. Only a few countries have made considerable progress in reducing corruption, and there is still limited knowledge about what has determined their positive experiences. This paper attempts to contribute to this discussion by engaging in a comparative analysis of six countries that have improved in terms of control of corruption. These countries are: Uruguay, Estonia, Botswana, Taiwan, South Korea and Ghana. The framework for analysis is based on a model of corruption as a function of power discretion, material resources and legal and normative constraints (Mungiu-Pippidi, 2010). Additionally, particular attention is paid to the role of political agents as drivers of change, with a focus on political leaders, civil society, media and enforcement institutions.