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The year was dominated by preparations for celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s Independence on 30 September. This coincided with the launch of Vision 2036 as Vision 2016 drew to a close. Opposition coalition talks were also in motion. A vocal foreign policy continued, with open disparagement of countries that debased the ideals of democracy and human rights and good governance – much to the chagrin of most of its African peers and resulting in a degree of isolation. Socio-economic barriers and risks continued to pose challenges; the economy remained vulnerable to external oscillations and failed to realise broad-based growth.

The Covid-19 pandemic intensified during the year, causing disruptions and bringing socioeconomic activities almost to a halt, with some sectors, such as tourism, badly affected owing to travel restrictions imposed by regional countries to contain the pandemic. The pandemic caused a major shock to regional economies, particularly because most of them were founded on narrow bases (not diversified). As a result, the debt burden of a number of regional countries escalated as public expenditure increased to contain and alleviate the impact of the disease. Countries began their Covid-19 vaccination rollout programmes, albeit most of them were slow to take off because of shortages of vaccines. However, by the end of the year, regional economies began to show signs of recovery from the pandemic, with positive growth rates being anticipated. Meanwhile, challenges associated with deficiencies in governance were evident across the sub-region, with corruption continuing to be a political issue despite efforts to combat it. There were a few elections held during the year but human rights violations were recorded across the sub-region. Sub-regional organisations remained active, although their efforts were also affected by the pandemic. The sadc committed troops in an effort to contain the spread of terrorism, which caused the loss of over 1,000 lives and the displacement of around 735,000 people in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique. Moreover, the region continued to be afflicted by natural disasters.

The tension between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and former president Ian Khama remained unresolved. The uneasy relationship between the two leaders escalated as preparations for the 2019 general elections intensified, with Khama actively campaigning against his former party, the Botswana Democratic Party (bdp), with the aim of dislodging Masisi and his party, in support of his newly formed party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (bpf), and the opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (udc). Masisi and his party managed to ward off Khama’s intense opposition challenge and won elections but lost control of the Central District, where Khama is a paramount chief. Meanwhile, issues of corruption and money laundering continued. There was no shift in the country’s foreign policy or socioeconomic barriers.

Against all odds and unlike in other parts of ssa, the Southern Africa sub-region sustained its commitment to upholding democratic development, as several countries in the sub-region held elections as expected and in line with their constitutions, and imperfect as they were. As with previous elections, those in some countries were considered fraudulent by the opposition while those in others were characterised by violence. The sub-region continued to be plagued by governance challenges and socioeconomic disparities, making it prone to tensions and instability in the long run. However, the sub-region remained the most stable when compared with others. Meanwhile, sub-regional organisations continued to play a critical role in influencing the sub-region’s policy direction and developmental agenda.

Overall, this was an extraordinary year that was defined by the Covid-19 pandemic and characterised by uncertainty. Consequently, the sub-region’s political attention and economic resources were largely focused on efforts to contain the pandemic, with power further concentrated on the executive owing to the associated restrictions imposed. Undoubtedly, apart from absorbing a substantial amount of resources, the pandemic disrupted and stalled regional economies – demonstrating their vulnerability to external shocks. In the sub-region, South Africa registered the highest number of deaths associated with Covid-19. The sub-region sustained its relative stability, but governance and security challenges and associated human rights abuses were evident in some countries, especially Angola and Mozambique, where insurgencies presented a major security threat in some provinces. Equally, regional cooperation was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic because countries were mainly focused on containing it.

Domestic politics was characterised by intra-party and inter-party feuding, and by the ruction between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and former president Ian Khama, with the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (diss) at the centre of their dispute, giving rise to criticisms that the diss was ‘operating above the law’ and encroaching ‘with impunity’ on the roles of other institutions such as the Botswana Police Service, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (dcec), the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (dpp), and the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (ppadb). Corruption, malfeasance, and money laundering, as well as concerns over the independence and integrity of the judiciary, intensified despite President Masisi’s anti-corruption posture and declaration of adherence to the rule of law. The country preserved its foreign policy, characterised by unprecedented out-bound visits. Covid-19 eased, and the economy showed signs of positive economic recovery, yet socioeconomic barriers remained significant.

This chapter examines the major occurrences that defined the Southern Africa region in 2022. There were a few elections held in the region. Meanwhile, the quality of governance continued to decline across a number of countries, as shown by violations of human rights. The security situation in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province remained a major concern for the sadc. Unlike in the previous year, Covid-19 diminished across sub-regional countries during the year under review and this allowed for restrictions on movement to be lifted. Economic growth across sub-regional economies was mixed, with some showing positive recovery while others barely grew. The region’s major economies were among those that recorded the lowest growth rates during the period under review, demonstrating that many economies are yet to recover from the 2020 shock caused by Covid-19. The AfDB put economic growth for the region at 2.5% in 2022. The debt burden of some of the countries in the region was an issue of concern, as it exceeded the threshold determined by the World Bank. Meanwhile, diseases, drought, and natural disasters continued to present a major challenge to a number of sub-regional countries, causing disruption to livelihoods and loss of lives. Nothing out of the ordinary was registered within the two main sub-regional organisations, sacu and sadc.

In accordance with the constitution, president Mokgweetsi Masisi automatically succeeded president Ian Khama following the latter’s retirement in March. There were no drastic measures or changes made in areas of priority following the transfer of leadership, save for emphasis in certain areas. Soon after Khama’s retirement, media reports suggested that there was a rift between him and President Masisi. Their rift developed into a public spat that tore the ruling party apart, with the two leaders openly disparaging each other. Masisi visited neighbouring countries to pledge his commitment to international relations. Domestically, he declared his commitment to tackling socioeconomic barriers, particularly youth unemployment.

The domestic political landscape remained stable throughout the year. This being the last full year of President Ian Khama’s presidency, his government maintained its priority areas – job creation, eliminating poverty, improving funding for education, eradicating mother-to-child transmission of hiv, and combating corruption. A major domestic development was the conclusion of opposition cooperation talks. The country’s foreign policy continued unchanged, and there were no major changes on the socio-economic front.

The year was dominated by the general elections in October. As expected, the Botswana Democratic Party (bdp) maintained its dominance – albeit with a reduced popular vote. However, the two opposition parties, the Botswana Congress Party (bcp) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (udc) – a coalition of the Botswana National Front (bnf), the Botswana Movement for Democracy (bmd) and the Botswana Peoples Party (bpp) – also mounted colourful campaigns. In addition, the Independent Electoral Commission (iec) registered the highest number ever of independent candidates – suggesting that the political party primary elections were not straightforward. The economic performance continued to show signs of recovery and stability. The country maintained its foreign policy, and there were no noticeable changes in socio-economic developments and disparities.