“A lean cow cannot climb out of the mud, but a good cattleman does not leave it to perish”: The origins of a conservative welfare doctrine in Botswana under Seretse Khama, 1966-1980

Year: 
2016
Working Paper Number: 
387
Author: 
Jeremy Seekings
Abstract: 
By the early 2000s Botswana had acquired an extensive but conservative welfare state that combined food aid, workfare for working-age adults and modest cash transfers for the elderly, orphaned children and other ‘destitutes’. This paper examines the origins of the corresponding welfare doctrine during the presidency of Seretse Khama between 1966 and 1980. Khama, together with his Vice-President (Quett Masire) and their Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), developed a doctrine that was to provide the normative foundations for a conservative welfare state: The poor were both the responsibility of the community, via the state, and responsible for themselves, through their own labour. The doctrine reflected the congruence of ideas between BDP leaders who were committed to conservative modernisation, expatriate British and South African advisers, and international agencies (notably the World Food Programme). The doctrine resulted from the challenges of drought (in the mid- and late 1960s), political conditions in Botswana in the decade following independence as elected politicians sought to transfer powers and responsibilities from chiefs to new state institutions, and the interaction between indigenous Tswana and British ideas about ‘development’ and governance.
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