Access to information, or the right to information, is a critical
element of any functioning democracy. It serves as a safeguard
against corruption and impunity amongst elected officials
and also empowers citizens to demand important information
relevant to their daily lives.
Although Botswana currently enjoys a reputation as one of the
most democratic countries in Africa, access to information is by no
means guaranteed. Transparency, consultation and accountability
are just some of the attributes that have always found resonance
in Botswana’s traditional participatory democracy, which predates
independence, achieved in 1966. Like many other oppressive
governments, the government of Botswana has increasingly
shown traits of secrecy in its operations.
Contrary to the traditional style of leadership where decisions were
made by leaders (Chiefs), who encouraged public engagement,
the new form of government we have adopted under the banner
of democracy has failed to engage the public in decisionmaking and restricts public access to information. Leaders in
the traditional system were born into office, not elected, but the
structures allowed the public to have an input on issues affecting
them with representation at different levels. The arrangement had
entrenched systems of checks and balances that ultimately made
Chiefs accountable to the people over whom they ruled. The Chief
frequently shared his thoughts with his people and always sought
their input and guidance before making far-reaching decisions
through Kgotla meetings (public gatherings). We have since
witnessed the collapse of these structures between independence
and now, as the old system of ruling was completely reformed.
Under the current decision-making and information sharing
structures all powers now lie within the Office of the President,
which oversees the entire system under the authority of the
Initially, efforts were made to enable citizens to participate
in decision-making through different forums that allowed
them to hold their leaders accountable. Such arrangements
continued long into independence, with Presidents always
allowing for public consultation, albeit to varying degrees. As our
independence matured and different Presidents came and went,
we witnessed the silent death of such structures at the hands of
the government in power.
However, it appears that these open and transparent practices
from the Bogosi era (where tribal leaders were the highest
authority) have not found their way into Botswana’s modern
form of government, and there have been growing complaints
that government has been making important decisions without
public consultation.
This low degree of engagement has been widely criticised, with
critics arguing that it has reduced the role of the public in decisionmaking, as ‘rubber stamping’ decisions are made solely by those in
power. This has led to numerous complaints that government only
releases the information it wants the public to know about.


Critics within this country have repeatedly cried foul against State
media, which they label ‘government propaganda machinery’,
used by the ruling elite to control public perception. The absence
of independent reporting in the State media houses has denied
citizens their right to access factual information and balanced
reports, as coverage and control is held by those in power.
The enactment of the Botswana Communications Regulatory
Authority Act 2012 and the Public Service Act 2010 confirmed
the government’s intentions to restrict and control the flow of
information. This monopoly of information has also weakened
the country’s democracy in many ways.
Critics claim that without the sufficient provision of information,
citizens have routinely been unable to make informed decisions
on critical issues that affect not just their lives but also the
direction of the country, as well as the national public discourse.
This new form of government has long been condemned for a
lack of political will to combat corruption, particularly in light
of the perceived lack of independence of organisations like the
Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). These
issues have created a breeding ground for corrupt officials and
proliferate injustice.
Oversight institutions like the DCEC and the judicial system
have failed to work efficiently to prosecute several high ranking
officials who have been accused of foul play on many occasions.
We have recently witnessed a case involving a top security agent
where government machinery is using all of its powers to prevent
justice from taking its course. It was revealed in the previous
survey that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was
the most secretive organisation and that such institutions with
undefined powers may pose a danger to our democracy.

This year’s study focused on eight ministries with the aim of
assessing the degree to which they are accessible and responsive
to the public’s demand for information. The survey was conducted
between the 18th of June and the 11th of July 2014. The study
indicates how transparent each ministry is by using prescribed
tools to measure the level of responsiveness for each chosen
ministry within a given time frame.
The following government institutions were surveyed:
1. Ministry of Lands and Housing
2. Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology
3. Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs
4. Ministry of Education and Skills Development
5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
6. Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism
7. Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture
8. Ministry of Local Government

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