SADC democracy comes of age
The holding of elections in Botswana and Mozambique last month, the polls in Mauritius this week as well as the impending plebiscite in Namibia towards the end of this month shows that democracy has entrenched across the SADC region.
Earlier this year, elections were held in Malawi and South Africa, cementing the culture of democracy that countries of the region have been building over the years since the end of colonialism and apartheid. That the countries of the region have come up with the SADC Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the sending of observers from the bloc’s member states to superintend over the polls is further proof of maturity by the political leadership in the region.
And in all the elections held thus far, regional and African observers have declared them as having been free and fair as these were held according to the regional and continental guidelines governing democratic elections. Of course, regional observers and African observers understand the local terrain and are therefore best placed to make pronouncements on elections on the continent. International observers, we believe, can only complement what the local, regional and continental observers would have done.
We therefore commend the people of Botswana, Mauritius and Mozambique for having upheld the democratic principles to conduct transparent and free and fair elections. While in any election there are victors and losers, we expect the vanquished to accept the results as losing the poll does not mean the end of the world. The winners must be magnanimous in victory and there should be no room for vindictiveness.
Now that the elections are out of the way and new political leaderships are in place in those countries, it is time to move away from the political posturing and focus on economic development issues.
With regard to Botswana, the country has been a role model in terms of democracy not only in the SADC region, but the entire African continent. As we report elsewhere in this issue, the
retained government of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led by President Mokgweetsi Masisi has hit the ground running in creating a diversified and more inclusive economy.
The Southern African country of over two million people, lauded as Africa’s model democracy, must rid itself of its over-reliance on vast diamond wealth in order to fulfill its economic potential. President Masisi pledged, during the elections campaign, to transform Botswana from a resource-based to a
knowledge-based economy. Already, analysts have pointed out that the country needs to diversify its economic and move away from over-reliance on diamond exports. This, we believe, is the way to go.
Diamond revenues account for 76 percent of Botswana's export revenue and 45 percent of government revenue as well as 33 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) of US$19,65 billion, the 21st highest on the continent. The World Bank stated that the limitations of Botswana’s diamond-led
development model had become more apparent with growth slower, inequality remaining high and job creation is limited.
While the economy is still good enough to be currently one of the world's fastest growing economies, averaging about 5 per annum over the past decade, we expect the President Masisi-led government to take the bull by its horns and diversify the country’s economy so that it exploits opportunities in tourism and other sectors.
In Mozambique, the emphatic victory by the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) and President Filipe Nyusi, who garnered 73 percent of the votes, should paved the way for serious economic expansion that should steer the country into the fastest-growing economy in the
foreseeable future, analysts have said.
With vast natural gas and coal resources as well as huge agricultural and tourism potential, Mozambique has what it takes to be one of the SADC region’s economic powerhouses. Indeed, the country is at the heart of the region’s electricity supply network, supplying its neighbours with power at a time the region is facing acute shortages to power industries.
President Nyusi’s and Frelimo’s victory came at a time the country of about 30 million people
is on the verge of an economic boom, buoyed by the discovery of gas reserves in recent years, but under pressure to address rampant poverty. Analysis anticipate that Mozambique would be the country with the largest gross domestic product (GDP) per person on the continent.
But for economic development to take place, there has to be peace. The country has suffered from years of armed conflict which was waged by the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) and we hope that the peace agreement signed by President Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade will keep holding. It is only when there is peace that economic development can take place.
We also hope that President Nyusi deals, once and for all, with the Muslim extremist insurgency that is rearing its ugly head in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. SADC does not need conflict anymore and must remain the most peaceful bloc on the African continent.
The end of the elections period should signal serious work that needs to be done to move SADC nations forward and bring them up-to-date with other community of nations on the continent and elsewhere across the world in terms of economic development.
The newly elected governments must address issues to do with economic empowerment and service delivery for the people. Election promises must now be fulfilled and the leaders must now focus on bread and butter issues, which must take precedence over politics. Indeed, democracy across the SADC region has come of age.