SECTION of DOCUMENT:
Two systems of democracy exist in a juxtaposed position in Botswana. These are direct and representative democracy. The former operates at community level through the system of the kgotla where decision making generally and theoretically takes the form of popular participation by all community members. This system compares to the Greeks' classical direct democracy of the cities of Athens and Sparta.
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Direct democracy has limitations of its own. However, because of its historical roots and acceptance in Botswana, it forms part of our modern system of governance. Linked to the latter is the system of representative democracy. The two systems are briefly described below:
Direct democracy is a government by popular acclamation. Members of the community participate directly in the decisions that affect them. Historically, it is documented across the world as having Greek origins and as the ideal system of government. However, democracy "...is like a tree with roots anchored in almost all cultures of the world" (Sachs, 1993). Direct democracy or its essential elements existed in pre-colonial African and Asian societies with major semble to pre-industrial American and European societies. Despite its historical universality, direct democracy was feared by the founding philosophers and political theorists such as Locke, Plato and Aristotle for what they perceived as its mob characteristics and consequences. Its overall strengths include:
Critics of direct democracy, however, point to the following limitations and practical problems:
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It is in the context of the shortcomings of direct democracy, especially the point (iv) above, that direct democracy has limited usage in a modern large multi-cultural population spread out over a large landmass.
The other component of the Botswana's democracy is representative democracy. The leaders of the independent state of Botswana chose representative democracy to be the system of governance at independence. Representative democracy operates through specific key components, which are:
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The advocates of representative democracy hold the view that under this system, for a leader to be effective he/she must not necessarily be a messenger. That is he/she must be able to interpret the immediate situation and take a stand that is justifiable. They must provide ideas for both constituents and the institution that they represent.
In a representative democracy, institutions provide checks and balances for the system - these are the Judiciary, the Executive and Parliament.
It is important that these institutions are clearly understood and accepted by the people in order for representative democracy to thrive. There must be a full understanding of the rules.
The weaknesses of representative democracy include:
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This type of democracy is institutional and procedural. Effective representatives must monitor and work hard to improve its content. Over time one can identify institutional constraints and suggest modifications because institutions are by nature dynamic.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Juni 1999