The former British protectorate of
Bechuanaland became the independent Botswana in
September 1966. It took place in orderly form, without
violence or major political conflicts. Seretse Khama,
who was prime minister of self-government, became the
country's first president. His party Botswana's
Democratic Party (BDP) has maintained its grip on power
ever since and won all elections. Shortly after
independence, diamonds were found in Botswana, and the
formerly very poor country has experienced a major
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Botswana. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Unlike in other countries in the region, no radical
or Marxist guerrilla group seized power without an elite
of young, conservative, Christian-educated and
well-educated men. The BDP gave the country a
parliamentary system, encouraged foreign investment and
guaranteed white big farmers that they would be able to
retain their holdings. President Khama adopted a neutral
attitude towards South Africa but was outspoken against
the apartheid system.
He also significantly cuts the power of the chiefs,
including by transferring their traditional right to
distribute land to district councils. This created
conflicts with the chiefs. One of them founded the
opposition party Botswana's National Front
(BNF) in 1969.
Diamonds bring wealth
By independence, Botswana was one of the world's
poorest countries. There was only half a mile paved road
and three high schools. The country was heavily
dependent on foreign aid and money that Botswana guest
workers sent home from South Africa.
Rich diamond deposits were discovered in 1967. In the
early 1970s, a period of economic growth began, when
foreign companies began to extract diamonds, copper and
nickel. During the 1970s, commercial livestock
management also grew sharply. Botswana's economy had one
of the highest growth rates in the world during the
1980s, but at the same time the population grew sharply
and unemployment remained high.
When Khama died in 1980, Vice President Quett
Ketumile Masire became president. Under him, the BDP
maintained its firm grip on power. The party won the
parliamentary elections in 1984 and 1989 by a large
majority. Even in the 1994 elections, BDP won, although
dissatisfaction with corruption scandals and
unemployment gave BNF a huge push forward.
After 18 years as president, Masire resigned in 1998.
He was succeeded by Vice President Festus Mogae. As new
Vice President, this army chief appointed Ian Khama, son
of the country's first president.
Internal division within BDP
In the 1999 and 2004 parliamentary elections, BDP won
by a good margin. The National Assembly continued to
appoint Mogae and Khama as president and vice president.
But in April 2008, when 18 months remained for the next
election, Mogae resigned and handed over the board to
Khama. This appointed Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe
as its Vice President.
The global financial crisis hit hard on Botswana's
export-dependent economy and temporarily closed the
diamond mines in 2009 (see also Finance).
In October 2009, BDP again won, despite serious
internal divisions. The party received just over 53
percent of the vote. Due to the design of the electoral
system, with majority voting in one-man constituencies,
it provided over three-quarters of the seats in the
Ian Khama was elected, as expected, as president of
the National Assembly. But the divide in the BDP
remained strong, and in the spring of 2010 several
leading BDP politicians jumped off and formed a new
party: the Botswana Democracy Movement
(BMD). As party leader, BMD appointed
the former BDP secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi.
After the dismissal of the MPs for the new party, BMD
was equally strong with BNF. However, the party was
criticized for being distinguished mainly by fierce
outcomes against President Khama and less by presenting
its own political line.
Botswana was shaken in 2011 by a serious labor market
conflict. Nearly 100,000 public servants went on strike
for two months, demanding higher salaries. The conflict
led to clashes, closed schools and restrictions in
health care (see Labor market). The BDP accused the
opposition of encouraging the strike in order to try to
trigger a popular uprising similar to those that shook
North Africa at the same time.
In 2012, several leading opposition parties formed an
election alliance, the Collection for Democratic
Change (UDC), in an attempt to
challenge the BDP in the 2014 elections. There were
suspicions of a political murder, although it was an
accident according to the police investigation.