Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sir Peter Fawcus

Peter Fawcus was in many ways an unconventional man. First of all he was not a 'typical' member of the aristocracy. Peter Fawcus spent a significant part of his life in then Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) which was a British colony. He was neither a wealthy plantation lord nor a missionary. In fact, Fawcus was the resident Commissioner of Britain as of 1959. Fawkus falls under our definition of 'bad europeans' yet he is far from deserving it. Here is why:

"Fawcus and a few other dedicated officers identified with the democratic, nonracial aspirations of the BDP [Botswana Democratic Leader] leadership and were poweful allies of the African leadership. Fawcus' well-documented history of encounters with the whites, the chiefs and, sotto voce, the British government, show his deft hand in moving along. Fawcus also fought for financial resources for Bechuanaland, increasing annual expenditures in the protectorate by twentyfold between 1954-1965." (Lewis, 10-11) Fawcus also played a critical role in administering the JAC (Joint Advisory Council) which was established in 1951 and produced a constitutional arrangement for Bechuanaland and was also involved in the Constitutional Conference that took place in 1963.

When it comes to development, Botswana is viewed as the "African exception". A democracy for many years with high levels of economic growth, Botswana is "the second least corrupt, after Chile of the developing countries and is higher on that list than Japan, Spain, Belgium, Greece..." (Harrison, 123). Lewis (and Harrison) argue that Botswana success is to be found in some aspects of its culture such as an inherent democratic character, in the sound economic and social policies, in the peaceful practices with regard to conflict resolution, and, in the British administration and the personality of Peter Fawcus.

Peter Fawcus was not the average colonial administrator; he was 'the exception that confirms the rule'.. Yet it is important to make a reference to such a charismatic leader, a true gentleman, who impacted the lives of many, particulalry given the abundance of colonial personel that took advantage of or mistreated the indigenous population. Peter Fawcus stands out even when judged by our modern standards, for, how often is it really that we see people taking advantage of their position for personal gain/benefit? Fawcus could have been one such man, but he chose not to.

I end with a quote from Lewis with regard to British legacy in Botswana: "There was no large settler community claiming political power, no bureaucracy of privileged civil servants, no large houses of colonial rulers, no inheritance of inferiority..." (Lewis, 9).

Note that Botswana shares borders with such states as Zimbwabwe and South Africa...



Harrison, Lawrence. The Central Liberal Truth. Oxford: OUP, 2005.

Lewis, Stephen. Explaining Botswana's Success. Developing Cultures: Case Studies Ed. Harrison and Berger. London: Routledge, 2006. pp. 3-22.

Additional Information: [site of the government, icludes the obituary of Sir Peter Fawcus]

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