Botswana
 
 

  Source:  US Department of State  
[Country Map]

Flag of Botswana is light blue with a horizontal white-edged black stripe in the center.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Botswana

Geography
Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas.
Cities (2001 census): Capital--Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 186,007. Other towns--Francistown (83,023), Selebi-Phikwe (49,849), Molepolole (54,561), Kanye (40,628), Serowe (42,444), Mahalapye (39,719), Lobatse (29,689), Maun (43,776), Mochudi (36,962).
Terrain: Desert and savanna.
Climate: Mostly subtropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.).
Population (2003): 1.76 million.
Annual population growth rate (2002): 0.6%.
Ethnic groups: Tswana 79%; Kalanga 11%; Kgalagadi, Herero, Bayeyi, Hambukush, Basarwa ("San"), Khoi, whites 10%.
Religions: Christianity 70%, none 20%, indigenous beliefs 6%, other 4%.
Languages: English (official), Setswana, Ikalanga.
Education: Adult literacy--81%.
Health (2004): Life expectancy--33.9 years. Infant mortality rate--56/1,000.
Work force (2005/2006 est.): 548,600 employed; total including unemployed, 651,500.

Government
Type: Republic, parliamentary democracy.
Independence: September 30, 1966.
Constitution: March 1965.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government), cabinet. Legislative--popularly elected National Assembly; advisory House of Chiefs. Judicial--High Court, Court of Appeal, local and customary courts, industrial labor court.
Administrative subdivisions: Five town councils and nine district councils.
Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)--48 seats, Botswana National Front (BNF)--12 seats, Botswana Congress Party (BCP)--1 seat, Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM)--0 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
Nominal GDP (2005/2006): $9.5 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (2005/2006): -0.8%.
Per capita nominal GDP (2005/2006): $5,300.
Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt, gold, potash.
Agriculture (1.7% of real GDP, 2005/2006): Products--livestock, sorghum, white maize, millet, cowpeas, beans.
Industry: Types--mining (41.4% of real GDP, 2005/2006): diamonds, copper, nickel, coal; tourism, textiles, construction, tourism, beef processing, chemical products production, food and beverage production.
Trade (2005/2006): Exports--$5.3 billion: diamonds, nickel, copper, meat products, textiles, hides, skins, and soda ash. Partners--EU, South Africa. Imports--$2.8 billion: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, chemicals, fuels. Major suppliers--South Africa, EU, and U.S.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY
The Batswana, a term also used to denote all citizens of Botswana, refers to the country's major ethnic group (the "Tswana" in South Africa), which came into the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1800s. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.

In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the British Government in 1885 put "Bechuanaland" under its protection. The northern territory remained under direct administration and is today's Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa; the majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.

Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received British assurances that they would not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa. An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils representing Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.

In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved from Mafikeng, in South Africa, to newly established Gaborone in 1965. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence in September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Bamangwato, was elected as the first president, re-elected twice, and died in office in 1980. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Ketumile Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999. Mogae won a second term in elections held October 30, 2004. Mogae has announced his intention to step down in March 2008. Vice President Ian Khama will assume the presidency until the general election in 2009.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country's minority groups participate freely in the political process. There are three main parties and a number of smaller parties. In national elections in 2004, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 44 of 57 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 12, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) won 1 seat. Individuals elected by the National Assembly hold an additional 4 seats; the ruling BDP currently holds all 4. The opposition out-polled the ruling BDP in most urban areas. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factor in Botswana's stability and economic growth. General elections are held every 5 years. The next general election will be held in October 2009.

The president has executive power and is chosen by the National Assembly following countrywide legislative elections. The cabinet is selected by the president from the National Assembly; it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers and assistant ministers, currently 16 and 8, respectively. The National Assembly has 57 elected and 4 specially elected members; it is expanded following each census (every 10 years; the most recent was conducted in 2001).

The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal subgroups of the Batswana tribes, five members specially elected by the president, and 22 members elected from designated regions. The elected members hold office for a period of only 5 years whereas the eight principal chiefs are members for life. A draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House of Chiefs for advisory opinion. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary traditional courts, though all persons have the right to request that their case be considered under the formal British-based legal system.

The roots of Botswana's democracy lie in Setswana traditions, exemplified by the Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders are limited by custom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president and may be removed only for cause and after a hearing. The constitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the courts, and Botswana has a good human rights record.

Local government is administered by nine district councils and five town councils. District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the central government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and district development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the San (indigenous tribal population). The government's policies for the Basarwa (San) and other remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy.

 
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