IN 1965, on the eve of Botswana's independence, the residents took to the polls to elect their first national government. To train people in this fundamental civic responsibility the Bechuanaland Protectorate administration prepared special materials: two films, ‘Mosupi Claims his Vote’ and ‘Mosupi Casts his Vote’, and a poster. Six Land Rovers, four of which were fitted with projectors and described as mobile cinemas, showed the films and the posters were widely distributed (Winstanley, 1965). In March 1965 74 per cent of the registered electorate (representing 58 per cent of the potential total) voted (Botswana Parliament, 1996), launching one of Africa's greatest successes in liberal multiparty democracy. For the purposes of this chapter, what is important to note is that the materials were prepared in a number of languages; versions of the films were in Setswana, English, Afrikaans, Ikalanga, and Otjiherero and the posters were in Setswana, English and Ikalanga. After independence English became the official, and Setswana the national, language. Government affairs, the official media and education were then limited to these languages, a fact that, in spite of recent government agreement in principle to change the existing policy, persists. The exclusion of other languages - now called ‘minority’ languages and spoken by ‘minority’ peoples - from national recognition is symbolic of wider exclusionary practices that are increasingly being seen as limiting, if not perverting, Botswana's democracy.
This chapter examines the rise of minority struggles in Botswana, a relatively recent but steadily intensifying phenomenon. The topic is of interest because of the increasingly significant role minority/majority discourse plays in the expression and manifestation of political strife on all continents in the post- Cold War era. In addition, the timeliness and importance of the issue are highlighted by the Botswana case study, not because they are especially typical or emblematic of minority and/or ethnic struggles, but rather, because of their socalled 'exceptionality’ (Good, 1992), especially in the African context. In much of Africa, ethnic conflict is attributed to state weakness. Patronage politics, imposed austerity fiscal programmes, corruption, and so on leave states unable to deliver services efficiently and contain internal competition and conflict.